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Asian giant hornet evades Washington state tracking effort

Dental floss was used to attach a Bluetooth device to a second Asian giant hornet caught alive in an effort to find its nest.

SEATTLE — Experts tracking the Asian giant hornet in Washington say they’re getting closer to finding a hive. The latest search involves a live specimen captured by a resident near Blaine, Wash.

Last Wednesday, researchers from the Washington State Department of Agriculture assisted by the University of Washington used dental floss to secure a small Bluetooth device to an Asian giant hornet, trapped by a local resident, with the hope it would take them to its leader.

“By using the radio signals that these things send out, we can track where they are in space,” said Vikram Iyer, a graduate student with the University of Washington.

Asian giant hornets were first spotted in Washington state in 2019 and since then the state Department of Agriculture has been on the hunt for the invasive species, which kills bees and takes the bee larvae to feed their own young.

It is an insect that truly lives up to its nasty name. Experts say this is their "active season," when just a few Asian giant hornets can take down a hive made up of thousands of bees.

The Bluetooth tracker was intended to lead researchers to the hornets' nest. That plan worked, but not for long.

“Pretty successful day. Unfortunately, we lost the signal but very happy at how well it worked. We were able to get four groups of people surrounding the hornet as she was flying,” said Sven Spichiger, an entomologist with WSDA.

Earlier this month, researchers had tried to attach a tracker to another Asian giant hornet, but the glue prevented the hornet from flying back to its nest.

The WSDA now wants your help. They want you to report any sightings asking you to pay close attention to the direction of flight, which could help researchers find the location of the nest.

“However we did get an initial signal of flight. We were able to meet with several neighborhood property owners and get a few more eyewitness accounts of seeing hornets earlier the week before or earlier in the summer so we are starting to narrow down exactly where the hornets' nest is that is in that area,” Spichiger said.

Experts predict that if allowed to fly free, the aggressive and invasive species will only spread throughout the Northwest.

With these new sightings and captures, more than 15 hornets have been reported in Whatcom County over the past few months.

For more information on how to report a sighting follow this link: https://agr.wa.gov/hornets