New ‘murder hornet’ nest located in Washington state as scientists again use tiny tracking tech

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An Asian giant hornet is shown flying with a bent tracker device that scientists used to follow the insect back to its nest. (WSDA Photo)

Tech has passed the test again in helping to track down another Asian giant hornet nest in Washington state.

About a week after one of the invasive, so-called “murder hornets” was spotted by a resident near Blaine, Wash., the Washington State Department of Agriculture said Thursday that it has located the first nest of 2021.

The agency gained international attention last year with its efforts to locate and eradicate a nest of the insects.

WSDA worked with representatives from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to locate the new nest in a rural area of Whatcom County about a quarter mile from where a hornet was spotted attacking a paper wasp nest on Aug. 11. The nest is at the base of a tree.

Asian giant hornets enter and leave the nest entrance at the base of a tree in rural Whatcom County in Washington state. (WSDA Photo)

According to a WSDA news release, three hornets were netted, tagged with a radio tracker and released between Aug. 11 and Tuesday of this week. One hornet slipped out of its tracking device, another was never located, and one eventually led the team to the nest.

A WSDA tracking team and others searched the area Thursday beginning at 7:30 a.m. and the nest was spotted around 9:15 a.m.

WSDA says it will develop a plan to eradicate the nest, probably by next week.

Jessica Rendon, ODA entomologist, left, and Stacy Herron, USDA APHIS plant health safeguarding specialist, during the search using trackers to locate an Asian giant hornet nest. (WSDA Photo)

The high-tech insect tracking method was employed last year and involved some device insight and guidance from a researcher at the University of Washington.

“Teamwork has been the key to success with this effort,” Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist, said in a statement. “Whether it is the public reporting sightings and building traps or state and federal agencies working together, this is really a model for success in invasive species management.”

The Asian giant hornet is not native to the U.S. and is the world’s largest species of hornet. The first-ever sightings occurred in the U.S. in December 2019 in Northwest Washington state. The hornets are known to attack and destroy honeybee hives during a “slaughter phase” where they kill bees by decapitating them. A small group of Asian giant hornets can kill an entire honey bee hive in a matter of hours.

A dead hornet was reported in June near Marysville, Wash., in Snohomish County, but WSDA figured it was an old male from a previous season.

WSDA has a dedicated page for reporting hornet sightings.