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USDA’s Cutting-Edge Methods Help Deliver a Victory Against Asian Giant Hornet

Posted by Greg Rosenthal, Communications Specialist, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Animals
Aug 16, 2021

UPDATE: Please consult the APHIS’ Asian Giant Hornet and Lookalikes Guide. If you believe the specimen is an Asian giant hornet, please report your potential sighting to the state apiary inspector.

You may also want to contact your State Plant Health Director.

A USDA-supplied radio tag onto this captured Asian giant hornet
The Washington State Department of Agriculture tied a USDA-supplied radio tag onto this captured Asian giant hornet. It is eating jam for energy before flying back to its nest. Photo by the Washington State Department of Agriculture

After weeks of searching, Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) entomologists–—using a radio tag provided by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and a trap developed by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service–— have located and eradicated the first Asian giant hornet (AGH) nest ever found in the United States. For months, WSDA had been trying to find the nest they knew must exist near Blaine, WA, because of AGH detections in the area. But finding the nest proved extremely challenging since the hornets build nests in forested areas, typically in an underground cavity.

WSDA was racing the clock. In the late summer and early fall, Asian giant hornets can attack honey bee hives. The hornets kill all the adult bees, leaving them at the bottom of the hive. The hornets then take the hive’s bee larvae and pupae back to their nest to feed their own brood. And there’s another threat: A large and healthy nest could produce mated queens, which could create new nests in the following spring.

WSDA entomologists had a plan: Capture a live hornet, attach a radio tag to it, release it, and track the radio tag back to its nest. But they faced many hurdles: Once they captured a live hornet, they first needed to find a way to attach the radio tag securely without harming the hornet. They also needed a strong enough signal to track the tag, adequate battery life for the operation and the ability to move through rough terrain with the tracking equipment. That’s where USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) came in.

APHIS’ Otis Pest Survey, Detection & Exclusion Laboratory in Massachusetts had developed expertise in using radio tags on insects. “For two years, APHIS scientists have been attaching radio tags to the spotted lanternfly to study their movements,” said APHIS Entomologist Miriam Cooperband. “These invasive insects have been found in several East Coast states and can attack many tree species and crops. The tags worked well for us, and we were happy to offer them to our Washington state colleagues, along with the antenna, receiver and tutorials.”

Using a radio tag from APHIS, WSDA entomologists tracked the signal to a dead tree but they didn’t see evidence of a ground nest. Then a few buzzing hornets got the attention of WSDA Managing Entomologist Sven-Erik Spichiger. He looked up and saw AGHs entering and leaving a crevice about 8 feet up in the tree. Nest found! Two days later, Spichiger and his team with a representative from APHIS plugged the nest with foam, wrapped the tree in plastic, and vacuumed out the hornets. To complete the eradication, they injected carbon dioxide into the tree to kill any remaining AGH.

In a recent press conference, Spichiger noted that, given the radio tag’s strength, “I’m pretty confident as long as we can get live hornets, we can follow them back, and that really gives us a great tool in an overall eradication program.”

Now that they’ve shown that it’s possible to find and eradicate a nest, the hunt continues for any other AGH nests that might be in the area.

Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologists wear special suits to protect them against an Asian giant hornet’s long stinger
During the eradication operation, Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologists wear special suits to protect them against an Asian giant hornet’s long stinger. Photo by the Washington State Department of Agriculture
Category/Topic: Animals

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Comments

Ellen Osborn
Oct 31, 2020

Great job!

Greg
Nov 03, 2020

Excellent Work! Thank You!

Akshay Kapoor
Nov 07, 2020

Wow! I think that was a great thing done. So thankful to the scientists who took on this task to save us from these dangerous insects.. Thank you..

June LeQuyea
Feb 27, 2021

Thank you so much for this amazing accomplishment and helping to save our honey bees. I was very concerned!!

Cynthia Nieman
Jul 06, 2021

How do I report one in my yard?

Ben Weaver
Jul 06, 2021

@Cynthia Nieman - thank you for your comment. Currently, the Asian giant hornet has not been identified outside of Washington state.

Please consult the APHIS’ Asian Giant Hornet and Lookalikes Guide. If you believe the specimen is an Asian giant hornet, please report your potential sighting to the state apiary inspector. We suggest you reach out to your local Extension office for advice on living with native insects, which are an important part of the local ecosystem.

LeAnn Blunt
Jul 27, 2021

I just spotted a giant Asian wasp in Keansburg, NJ. How should this information be reported? Thank you.

Ben Weaver
Jul 28, 2021

@LeAnn Blunt - thank you for your comment. Currently, the Asian giant hornet has not been identified outside of Washington state.

Please consult the APHIS’ Asian Giant Hornet and Lookalikes Guide. If you believe the specimen is an Asian giant hornet, please report your potential sighting to the state apiary inspector.

We suggest you reach out to your local Extension office for advice on living with native insects, which are an important part of the local ecosystem.

Abby Harris
Aug 13, 2021

we have Asian hornets in Copperhill Tn, which look like the murder hornets and are very aggressive and hard to kill. I have seen some that are at least 2 inches long.

Victoria olbur
Aug 13, 2021

I live in Concord California. I found a very large hornet/wasp in my pool. It was dead. I think it might be a “killer hornet”. FYI

Hughie Wrench
Aug 14, 2021

I have asian hornets (murder hornets). was stung by two of them. I live in Sampson county, n.c.

Elaine Graves
Aug 14, 2021

I saw a giant hornet w black and orange stripes in a parking lot of a shopping mall, in Myrtle beach. It really frightened me, it’s size and color. I kept away from it as it was quickly walking beside my car. I googled the picture and it was a giant Asian hornet. Should I report this to someone somewhere?

Tamie Jensen
Aug 18, 2021

Thanks to everyone involved in the tracking and removal of this hive. It's not hard to understand how these wasp made it to our Country,but it is quite scary. It's a high concern for all of us in the Pacific Northwest,not just the Farming community. It's going to take us all working together to fight and remove these from our area. Great job all!!

Dr Edward Wozniak
Aug 22, 2021

Excellent article and summary of the methods employed. It was. My understanding that there were nests located and destroyed in 2020. Is that not the case? Also, has there been any surveillance data to indicate the possible presence additional nests? The presence of nests in 2021 suggests that either some fertile 2020 queens survived or there wasnpossibly re-introduction(s).