Third Asian giant hornet nest eradicated as another is found

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Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) eradicated the third Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S. ever during the early morning of September 11. This comes as entomologists discovered a fourth nest in east Blaine and are planning for another eradication, according to the state agency.

The nest eradicated September 11 had four combs, but WSDA has not yet released the number of hornets found in the nest. For comparison, the nest eradicated August 25 had nine combs and the nest eradicated in October 2020 had six combs.

“This is starting from citizen reports,” WSDA public engagement specialist Karla Salp said. “People getting photos and reporting is one of our best ways to get hits. We really appreciate people sending in information.”

On the morning of September 8, east Blaine resident Dean Tjoelker captured a hornet attacking a paper wasp nest on his back deck. He knew it was a hornet, because he had seen one last year and, knowing it was only useful to scientists if kept alive, captured it with a 1-liter soda bottle. By mid-afternoon, WSDA entomologists arrived from Olympia and attached a radio tag to track the hornet, fed it Tjoelker family homemade jelly and started tracking it back to its nest.

“They don’t do a lot of good dead,” Dean Tjoelker said. “[Entomologists] have to track them.”

On September 8, WSDA captured its first hornet in a bottle trap for this year, and another hornet was detected in east Blaine, WSDA spokesperson Amber Betts said.

The next day, Heather Tjoelker, Dean’s wife, noticed the hornet being tracked hunting paper wasps on her back deck and alerted entomologists, who were able to locate the nest around 5 p.m.

“They are very loud,” Heather Tjoelker said of the hornets. “You see and hear their presence. When they appeared, the paper wasps scattered. There was terror going on when it showed up.”

Entomologists found the nest in a rotted alder tree on east Blaine resident Rod Bierlink’s property, about 100 yards from his house.

Before the eradication, Bierlink saw a hornet on his property when he was tending to the cows. He saw paper wasps flying around and noticed the hornet, but it escaped before he could step on it.

“When you see them, you know because they’re big,” Bierlink said. “I want to eradicate these things as much as [WSDA] does because we don’t want them around.”

Bierlink said the new nest didn’t come as a surprise to him because the first Asian giant hornet nest was found about a mile away, near Burk Road, in October 2020. After visiting the Asian giant hornet booth at the Northwest Washington fair in Lynden last month, Bierlink said he was prepared to set traps.

“The size of them overwhelms you. It freaks you out,” Bierlink said. “It’s twice the size of any wasp you’ve seen.”

On September 10, just a day before the third nest eradication, entomologists found a live hornet in a bottle trap and tracked it to the fourth Asian giant hornet nest in east Blaine. WSDA scientists are still working out the details on eradicating the nest, Salp said. The nest is in an alder tree and is at least twice as high as the 2020 nest that was found about 10 feet in an alder tree.

The new nests come after two hornet nests were eradicated in east Blaine in August 2021 and October 2020.

In mid-August, east Blaine residents submitted a photograph to WSDA of an Asian giant hornet eating a paper wasp nest on their property. State entomologists followed a hornet with an attached radio tag and located the nest August 19, before nearly a week later eradicating the nest that contained 1,500 hornets in different life stages.

The invasive hornets measure up to 2 inches and can be identified by its orange-and-black body and almond-shaped eyes. Originally from Asia, the hornet was first detected in the U.S. in fall 2019.

Canadian officials haven’t detected any hornets in 2021, although they are trapping across the border. WSDA has not detected any live hornets outside of east Blaine in 2021, Salp said.

More information on the two nests will be available, according to WSDA.

“We still expect to see hornets flying for another month-and-a-half,” Salp said. “But the earlier we catch them, the better we’ll be able to eliminate the nest.”

To report a suspected Asian giant hornet detection, visit agr.wa.gov/hornets, email hornets@agr.wa.gov or call 800/443-6684.

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