About 600 traps to catch invasive Asian giant hornets are being placed in Whatcom County by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, more than doubling the number already set out by citizens.
The state traps are being placed around Blaine, Custer and Bellingham, the only places in the U.S. that the giant hornet has ever been found. The traps are being put on the edge of forested areas, about 6 to 9 feet off the ground.
While the state has waited until worker hornets are active, citizens already have reported putting up 569 traps. “I’m guessing that number will jump on July 1,” agriculture department spokeswoman Karla Salp said Monday.
Asian giant hornets — their Latin name is Vespa mandarina — are the world’s largest hornets. They are brutal to pollinators, known to decapitate honey bees and are the subject of wide fascination.
Five Asian giant hornets have been found in Whatcom County since last winter. Most recently, the agriculture department confirmed that a beekeeper last fall collected an Asian giant hornet. The beekeeper only recently submitted the specimen to the department.
A few Asian giant hornets have been detected across the border in British Columbia.
The non-native wasp eats fruit, another potential problem for agriculture, Salp said. The agriculture department plans to trap for hornets through the end of October, trying to learn the extent of the problem, she said.
“It seems there are Asian giant hornets present attempting to establish themselves,” Salp said.
As of Monday, the agriculture department had received 2,333 reports from people who suspected they saw or collected an Asian giant hornet. The reports are coming in from throughout the U.S., Salp said.
Entomologists determined 991 reports were not Asian giant hornets. In most cases, 1,322, the reports didn’t have enough information to make a determination. Entomologists have not finished looking at some reports.
Asian giant hornets are native to mainland southeast Asia and Taiwan. Queens nest in the ground over the winter and emerge in April. Workers start foraging in late June.
The agriculture department has instructions online for making Asian giant hornet traps and for sending in reports and bagged specimens. People can also call the department’s Asian giant hornet hotline at (800) 443-6684.