Nearly 200 queens were found in an Asian giant hornet nest that was removed from a tree in a Blaine family's backyard last month.
Now the hunt is on for more nests in Whatcom County and beyond.
Entomologists with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) said the first nest found in the United States is small: about one-fourth the size of some found in the Asian giant hornet's native Japan. The Blaine nest had 776 cells. In Japan, they have up to 4,000 cells.
But there is one concerning factor: nearly 200 queens were found inside the Blaine nest.
"A relatively small nest like this, able to pop 200 queens, it does give one a little bit of pause because potentially each of those queens could be a new nest next year,” said Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist.
After mating, queens leave the nest with the goal of creating their own colony.
WSDA’s original extraction gave them only workers. Then they found 108 queens still in cells, ready to emerge.
"As far as we can tell, we got there just in time,” said Spichiger.
When they came back four days later to finish the eradication, 76 queens had hatched.
"There is no doubt that, had we not intervened in and destroyed this nest, we would be starting with that number of 200 as a possibility,” said Spichiger.
While experts are certain they got to the nest before many queens left to start new colonies, they know there are more nests out there.
But hope for a full eradication is on the horizon.
"Now that we have a little better idea of how to track and locate a nest, we can respond a little more efficiently moving forward," said Spichiger. "I am still cautiously optimistic. Right now, it's just us and British Columbia, and it's a fairly contained event at the moment."
The following was found in the Blaine nest:
- 6 combs
- Approximately 776 cells - each cell can hold a developing hornet
- 6 unhatched eggs
- 190 total larvae
- 108 capped cells with pupae - pupae are the next stage after larvae
- 112 workers
- 9 drones
- 76 queens which had emerged and 108 queens still in capped cells