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“The Impact”: 3rd Giant Hornet Nest for 2021; Venom Studies Planned

Mike McClanahan profile by Mike McClanahan

   The Washington State Department of Agriculture has located three Asian giant hornet nests in Whatcom County this year. All were in the east Blaine area not far from the border. The nests were found within a few miles of each other and the nest they removed in October 2020. The largest nest eradicated this year contained nearly 1500 of the giant invasive hornets in various stages of development.  Eradicating he third nest of the year, the fourth ever found in the U.S., will require bringing in special equipment because it is situated more than twenty feet up in a tree, according to the agency.  

“We have found nests this year on both sides of the nest that we eradicated last year,” said Karla Salp, Community Engagement Specialist, WA State Department of Agriculture. “One hornet nest could produce up to 300 queens that could produce new nests. That would mean sort of the worst case scenario here.”

“We removed close to 200 queens from the nest that we eradicated last October,” said Salp. “Obviously, it looks like a couple of them had already emerged, mated and dispersed. We’re hoping it was just a few.”

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also involved in the fight to prevent the spread of the world’s largest hornet species in the pacific northwest. Vespa mandarinia is a prolific predator of honeybees which are critical for agriculture.  In Wapato, WA the agency’s Agricultural Research Service is working to  isolate chemical cues that could help create more effective lures to trap roaming hornets. In Ithaca, New York on the campus of Cornell University, work is underway to prepare the venom glands from one of the Asian giant hornets caught in Washington for extraction. 

“By identifying what proteins are in the venom gland we can understand how the venom gland works, what toxins are produced, And how those toxins would interfere with the metabolism of anyone or thing that got stung,” said molecular biologist Michelle Heck, USDA ARS Emerging Pests and Pathogens Research Unit, Cornell University.  “ We are also trying to understand what pathogens are in the hornet and that’s a tricky question.”

The WSDA says help from the public is critical to their efforts to stop the spread of giant invasive hornets. You can report suspected Asian giant hornet sightings and photos here:   

Watch “The Impact” – September 15th, 2021 here:

Guests: Karla Salp, Community Engagement Specialist, WA State Department of Agriculture

Michelle Heck, USDA ARS Emerging Pests and Pathogens Research Unit, Cornell University

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