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Asian Giant Hornet ft. Cassie of Washington State Department of Agriculture

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Show Notes

Join Nicole and Cassie as they take an in-depth look at the Asian Giant Hornet or Murder Hornet as it has recently been dubbed.

What You’ll Learn

What you’ll learn:

  • Asian Giant Hornets native environment, behavior, and lifecycle
  • Hornets risk to people
  • Asian Giant Hornets risk to beekeepers
  • How the title Murder Hornet came to be
  • What action you should take if you see one and how to properly identify an Asian Giant Hornet
  • The possibility of spread to other areas of the US and Canada

Our Guest

Cassie is the Asian giant hornet outreach and education specialist with the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Resources & Links Mentioned

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    Announcer: 0:01

    Welcome to the Backyard Bounty Podcast from, where we talk about all things backyard poultry, beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living, and more. And now here's your host, Nicole.

    Nicole: 0:16

    Hi everybody, and thank you so much for joining me for another episode of Backyard Bounty. I'm your host Nicole, and today we are joined by Cassie, who's the Asian Giant Hornet Outreach and Education Specialist with the Washington State Department of Agriculture. And you guessed it today we're going to talk about the Asian Giant Hornet, and its impacts and everything that we need to know about the Asian Giant Hornet, the season finale of 2020. So Cassie, thank you so much for joining me today.

    Cassie 0:47

    Yeah, thank you for allowing me to spend some time here with you and inform the public a little bit about Asian Giant hornet and what's going on in Washington state with them.

    Nicole: 0:56

    Yeah, I'm sure you've been completely overwhelmed and probably asked a million and one questions. And so I really appreciate your, your time and going over this with me because I'm sure you've probably have talked about it excessively at this point.

    Cassie 1:11

    A little bit, but it's okay. It's my job. So...

    Nicole: 1:14

    So just diving right in. Can you give us a little bit of background on what in the world is the Asian Giant Hornet? Where did it originate? How did it get here? I mean, I know that it's obviously not a new species. It's just one that made its way over here. So where do they come from? Obviously, Asia. But where do they come from and in how did they get here?

    Cassie 1:37

    Yeah, so Asian Giant Hornets. They're actually the largest hornet in the world. Adults are about an inch and a half to two inches in length. They have a really large orange, yellow head. And then they have pretty distinct like orange yellow bands on their abdomen, they are observed in Asia are most like observable in Japan and Korea. They like sub tropic to moderate temperatures, hence, their attempt to establish in Washington right now. We can't exactly say how they got to Washington, or how they got there. They're actually spotted in Canada 2019 first before they were observed in Washington. So we can't exactly state how they got from Asia over here. Speculation has some type of possible freight or shipping container, some type of maybe import coming our way. But, you know, we can't exactly know because we didn't eye witness it.

    Nicole: 2:29

    So when and how was the first one here in the States discovered?

    Cassie 2:34

    Yeah, so in December of 2019, last December, a resident of Blaine, Washington, actually reported a picture of it to the Washington invasive species council via they have like a reporting app for your cell phone where you can report different invasive species. So the Washington invasive species council kicked that over to us immediately. And then we confirmed it to be Asian Giant Hornet. So that actually happened in December of last year.

    Nicole: 3:01

    So you mentioned that they like to live in sort of tropical environments, can you kind of touch on the life cycle of them? I assume that it's kind of like our wasp where there's a queen and in that process, but what does that look like for the Asian Giant Hornet,

    Cassie 3:17

    It's actually quite interesting their lifecycle, it does help you understand a little bit about their species, but there's still so many questions we have to uncover regarding Asian Giant Hornets. So in the winter, actually, the queens are the only thing that will typically live on the wing males and the workers will die in the winter, so the Queen will overwinter. Starting in the spring months, she will emerge and then she will begin to build her underground nest. Moving more forward into the later spring, early summers, workers will start to emerge from the nest, they'll be foraging, they'll be eating carbohydrates, preying on occasional insects, maybe even a honeybee. Moving later into the summer, early fall, that colony will reach its maturity. And instead of laying workers, she'll start to wait drones and other queens. Because she's laying these drones and other queens sometimes there's a need in the Hornets lifecycle for more protein. And that source of protein could possibly be honeybees. Now, they don't always have like an urge for more protein, but if they do, it's in this fall time, early winter. Following that, you know, the Queens will mate with the male's or their drones and then the Queens will disperse to overwinter males in the workers will die and again, it will continue to happen.

    Nicole: 4:35

    So when they overwinter? Do they overwinter underground as well?

    Cassie 4:39

    Yep. So that they do, but there's also questions that we can't answer about the Queen's overwintering. For instance, we can't answer how far they'll disperse from once they mate. We don't know if perhaps that after they mate, they disperse to overwinter and then that's where they'll start their nest or if after they're done overwintering. They will disperse again. To start their nest, so we don't know how far a queen will travel from her original nest, there's really no research behind that there's really no literature that's pretty factual and telling us how far they can go.

    Nicole: 5:12

    And I thought we could maybe talk more about the risk to beekeepers here in a few minutes. But you mentioned that they could potentially prey on honeybees. Is that sort of a preferred diet for them? Or do they also eat other insects as well.

    Cassie 5:26

    So in their native range, they will eat other insects like throughout their entire lifecycle, you know, they'll prey on other insects in their native range. Honeybees are definitely threatened and they're very susceptible to Asian Giant Hornets. They haven't ever been introduced over here. So we can't exactly predict how they will act with our native species or like our or our honeybees, we can only kind of look at the literature and say, This is what they have the potential to do over here.

    Nicole: 5:53

    Sure that makes sense. So, you mentioned that it was first discovered the end of 2019. How did you guys go about finding the nest that you found recently?

    Cassie 6:03

    Yes. So there's a lot of steps that happen before you know we find a nest, hopefully, you don't just stumble upon one because that could be dangerous. But in us finding one is awesome. So from initial reports, what happens is those kind of get placed on a map on as a detection spot, if it's confirmed to be an Asian Giant Hornet. Once we have that spot on a map, we create, like a survey grid around it. There's more math and stuff behind this, but it's basically called a response grid, and it will tell us how many traps we need to place and where after that, we will place our traps and then once we catch one in our traps, we'll change the style of the trap over to be alive trap. So the Hornets not drowning and dying, instead, it's being alive. From that point on after it's alive. We attach a radio transmitter, the idea with it, its natural instinct would be to fly back to its nest. So then we use the transmitter we use it to track it back to its nest, hopefully finding the nest and then removing it.

    Nicole: 7:02

    And how many nests or individuals have you guys found so far? So it's now November of 2020.

    Cassie 7:08

    Yes, so we eradicated the first Asian Giant Hornet nest, I'm actually at the end of last month, on a Saturday, October 24. That's been it for us. It's just been that one nest, we hope to find more nests. But it's kind of hitting that point in time in their life cycle, where the Queen's and the males are mating and dispersing. So if we're happened to catch a Queen, we probably won't be able to track her back to the original nests, and she'll be flying off to overwinter.

    Nicole: 7:38

    Sure, that makes sense. So I know that, you know, the availability of information is pretty limited. But you know, I assume that you can kind of look at their native habitat, and then whatever information you've gathered, with them being here so far, so what do you think is the possibility of their spread? And is there any US states that they can't survive in? Because you mentioned that they preferred the kind of tropical environment. So does that mean that they could live in the mountains of Wyoming,

    Cassie 8:06

    So they like the sub tropic to moderate temperatures, Washington State University Extension actually just published a climatic study based on you know, just very limited climate, like temperature settings, across the United States to see possible niches that Asian Giant Hornets could establish in. And basically, it says anything kind of West to the Cascades, you know, like Washington, our coastline is a pretty good habitat for them. But then, you know, as you move further into the mountains, pretty much anything, until you get to the Mississippi River isn't very inhabitable. And that anything to the east side of it would could potentially be very good habitat for Asian Giant Hornets. So I mean, there is the possibility for them to survive, you know, across the United States, but then being able to transfer themselves across the land from one side to the other. Doesn't seem very hopeful. However, you know, if they were able to find their way from Asia and establish themselves in Washington, there is potential for them to find their way from Asia, maybe established and and in another area. But based off the study in the climatic factors, they shouldn't be able to like readily fly across the state, they would have to be transported in a way in some way.

    Nicole: 9:24

    Yeah, that that absolutely makes sense. And again, I'm sure there's a lot of unknowns, but what are some of the plans for eradication, and what are the odds of them being eradicated? Or is this something that you think we're just going to have to adapt to?

    Cassie 9:37

    So we do suspect there to be more than just the nest that we eradicated this year in Whatcom County. Fortunately, all the reports that we have are coming out of one county in Washington, the very most North County, we have a very rigorous trapping system. We're actually deployed over 900 traps this year, as well as we work with citizen scientists who spend their own time and resources to deploy Asian Giant Hornet bottle traps as well. citizen scientists have deployed over 1500 traps. All this like all these joint efforts in trapping to help just detect Asian giant when it's makes us pretty hopeful that we can find them, locate a nest take the nest out before they are able to reproduce in their breeding season. We did successfully eradicate one nest this year. And it is getting kind of close to those winter months where they are possibly already reproducing into drones and queens and dispersing off to mate, but we are even more prepared now for what next year might come we have better traps, we have better resources, hoping that we can just catch them and stop them there.

    Nicole: 10:45

    So do you think that it's realistic that they will be eradicated?

    Cassie 10:48

    I think it's realistic that we're not gonna give up people have asked me So when is this season going to be over? When are you going to stop trying to keep Asian Giant Hornets from spreading? And the answer really is never like we as long as we're reading a report of an Asian Giant Hornet and we're going to investigate it. Last year reports came in in December, middle of you know winter when it was starting to get kind of cold. And we still we were issuing pest alerts. And we were still asking people to report and we were still receiving reports throughout the winter. So my answer is that we're never really going to give up and we're going to do our best to keep this pest from establishing in Washington. So that way we're protecting the honeybees, human health and sustainable agriculture in Washington.

    Nicole: 11:31

    So when I looked at the news article that came out with the nest that you guys eradicated, you know, the people working on that nest were in a beekeeping slash spacesuit hybrid kind of looking thing. So how dangerous are these Hornets? I mean, they have the nickname Murder Hornet. So are they to people? And what are some things that we need to look out for in that regard.

    Cassie 11:54

    So at the beginning, I mentioned that they're the largest Hornet in the world, so they're stinger, they're capable to deliver more venom if you're stung than comparable to many of our native insects. And then since they are Hornets, they aren't able to see knew more than once when you're starting the skin around you're seeing sight can actually become damaged and seeking health care providers can happen or allergic anaphylactic reactions can happen. They also have rather large mandibles because they they will chew on carbohydrates. So they'll eat fruits, you know, throughout their entire lifecycle so they are actually able to bite you and they could take some a chunk out of your skin. The other thing that they can do is they do secrete different pheromones as well as they can secrete venom and that you know if that's potentially getting into your eyes, it could damage your nerves in your eyes.

    Nicole: 12:47

    So they can actually like not only inject venom by stinging you, but they can actually like spray venom as well.

    Cassie 12:55

    Yes, so are Asian Giant Hornet suits actually come equipped with a face shield, and you can take this face shield off, but it is a plastic shield as well as they come with goggles to keep your eyes safe. Basically, when Hornets feel threatened or endangered, they have the chance to sting you or secrete venom. So Asian Giant Hornets will feel threatened when you are around their home when you're around their colony. So there's two different times this could happen. We haven't talked about their nests yet and how, where they're located. But typically, Asian Giant Hornets will nest in the ground. Or they'll take over a hollow at the base of a pine tree or you know an old animal or rodent burrow. And they'll create these nests in the ground and these nest can be like up to two feet wide. But you know they're in the ground. So if you're out walking, you're not going to possibly readily see it until it's too late. They also will take over tree canopies as we saw with our first eradication here in the States, and that's where they chose to nest. So if you happen to stumble upon their nests, they're typically non aggressive unless they feel threatened. If you're stumbling upon a nest or coming up to one, they could feel threatened and that's when you could be in danger. Another time where they could feel threatened is when they are if they are going after a honeybee colony and they are going to decimate it and you know take that honeybee colony down as they are occupying it they will defend it as their own. So if you happen to have an apiary or manage bees or do something and this is happening and you happen to stumble upon an Asian Giant Hornet attacking an entire hive, you know that you could be susceptible to being stung since they do defend it as their own.

    Nicole: 14:37

    Will they attack or defend their colony as a whole? Or is it just you know a few of them I imagined it sort of like bees where they I'm assuming have drones that will be the ones that protect but are you likely to get stung by multiple Hornets or just a few?

    Cassie 14:53

    When we eradicated the nest here in Washington State. We were very lucky and we actually were not threatened by Asian Giant hornet We did it very, very early in the morning to where we're still dark and the temperature was very, very cold. This kind of left the nest to seem a little docile, the Asian Giant Hornets weren't out, buzzing around. But typically when you approach a nest, the workers will come out to defend the nest, and they will attack so, um, you know, as many workers present as possible would be as many workers that would come out to defend.

    Nicole: 15:24

    And I just want to redeem myself because I realized I miss spoke. It's not the drones, it's the workers. Yeah, I promise you I'm really a beekeeper I just miss spoke. So what are some of the look-likes or, wasps that could be confused? I imagine that there's probably a variety depending on on where you're located. But I know for example, I saw a Cicada Killer and I took a couple extra looks at it, because I wasn't sure what it was right away. It's hard to look at them when they're big and flying around. Yeah,

    Cassie 15:53

    I we get it. I'm not sure about the insects, you know, native to different states. But here in Washington, we do get quite a few. We're constantly answering the hotline, emails and looking at our online reporting form where people are sending in thousands of insects, which, you know, is great because I'd rather have a report than not but like you said, I did at the very beginning, we are getting lots of Cicada Killers. I mean, they can be up to two inches long. But the difference being that they kind of had a reddish thorax. Asian Giant Hornets tend to be more black. And their heads are much smaller than that of the Asian Giant Hornets. And unlike Hornets, they have brown eyes. That's kind of one of them. We get a lot of horntail wasps are kind of AK wood wasps. If you look at the end of it, them, they look like they have this super large stinger. And it's actually not a stinger at all, it's an egg laying so they're pretty, you know, good native and beneficial insect. Occasionally we get a Yellow Jacket or Paper Wasp turned back to us. At the very beginning of this whole Murder Hornet sensation. We were unfortunately getting a lot of honeybees and bumblebees reported to us because people just didn't know what Asian Giant Hornets look like or where the media was misreporting were actually successfully able to kind of educate people just enough to you know, keep our native pollinators that we needed our beneficial insects around. Another one that I get reported a lot would be a Bald Faced Hornet. They're found throughout most of North America, mostly, they're most commonly in the southern eastern United States are about a half inch to three quarters inch, and they're mostly black with like white, maybe creamy markings. And I think the last one that I get a lot are Great Golden Digger Wasps. Again, they're pretty much in all of North America and about an inch long and they have a, they have a pretty good wasp waist, it's very narrow along I get it, I think they report them because it has a dark brown to black body. Like Asian Giant Hornet however, it has orange to yellow legs, and its abdomen is orangish red toward the front. And then it's black at the end. So it might kind of have colors close to that yellow orange of the Asian Giant Hornet. But it's missing the banding. So a lot of these insects are easy for us to differentiate when we get pictures in, people get a lot of relief when they realize they don't have an Asian Giant Hornet. But it's also any interaction like that is another chance to offer some education and teach someone just you know, if you look for this difference, then you know, we get a lot of imposters but we're working on having less as people learn more.

    Nicole: 18:27

    Absolutely. So if I do see one, what's the reporting process? And what if I don't live in Washington, and I think I might see one outside of that area?

    Cassie 18:38

    So my first thing I was going to tell you is Asian Giant Hornets, when it's have currently only been found in the state of Washington. If you're in Washington, you can go online to and report it there. If you're outside of the state of Washington, it's best to contact your State Department of Ag. Or if you have like a local University Extension office or State College office around, they might possibly have an entomology branch or program that can help you identify them as well.

    Nicole: 19:09

    Okay, great. And I'll put a link to those in the show notes as well, just in case anybody would like those. So earlier, you mentioned that there was a threat to sustainable agriculture. And that's something that I hadn't thought of before, of course, being a beekeeper I think about that, and then you know, the danger to people, but can you expand on that in how are they threatening sustainable agriculture?

    Cassie 19:31

    Yeah, so I mean, the first point of reference is obviously going to be our pollinators. Our honeybees, Asian Giant Hornets, you know, typically are a big predator of honeybees. So without those pollinators, we're not going to have our flowers and we're going to lose our fruits and vegetables, right? Washington is huge into blackberries. And it's not just using our hives that we have here. They're actually people that you know, will transport their highest throughout Washington in the different growing seasons. to pollinate as well as to feed their bees. The other thing that anyone else can do is they do feast on fruits, especially as they're getting more ripe. So, if a couple Asian Giant Hornets, you know, started picking out lots of fruits in the area, then the potential resale of that is obviously decreased. So we could lose the pollinators and our, our ripe fruits could potentially be, you know, a little not up. So this is stainable agriculture, it's they're kind of studying it, they're kind of looking into it. But just losing our pollinators alone would be super devastating.

    Nicole: 20:34

    No, that's really interesting, I never would have associated them with with crop damage. So that's really interesting. So now focusing on the danger to to bees. You mentioned that they they'll feed on them and they can take over a colony. How much of a concern is this?

    Cassie 20:53

    Okay, so in their native range in Japan and Korea, 20 Asian Giant Hornets can decimate a hive anywhere between one to six hours. And on average, it takes about 90 minutes. The honeybees over they're actually different. They've you know, they've grown up and over time evolved with Asian Giant Hornets, compared to our European honeybees here. So they do have defense mechanisms against Asian Giant Hornets. For example, Asian Giant Hornets as they're entering the hive, the honeybees, they will kind of create a bee ball around them. So they'll mash up around them buzzing to raise the temperature of that Asian Giant Hornet just enough above the threshold to kill it and drop it to the ground. Now, some of the honey bees will die due to this, but not all of them will, however, so then I get the question a little bit. Why don't we bring those honey bees over here? Well, there's two different reasons. One, they're of different species so they can't mate and reproduce. You can't make a hybrid of them. The other thing being is, any beekeeper might know the nice word mite, or the bad word mite.

    Nicole: 21:56

    The four letter word.

    Cassie 21:58

    Yes. You don't want mites in your honey bee colonies, they can just devastate make your honeybee sick and you could lose an entire colony and then the mites over there would have a very detrimental impact to the honey bees here. The other thing I could mention on is how this happens, like I said earlier that this behavior is really common in the fall and how it happens is actually Asian Giant hornets they're kind of big and like they're kind of clumsy, right? So before they will be able to just take over the entire hive like you might see one or two Asian Giant Hornets couple just kind of flying around picking off honeybees as they're flying out they might like corner them on a leaf and mash them up or, you know, catch them on the ground, they're not relatively sloppy enough to just grab them out of the air. So you'll see that happening and that is called a hunting phase. And that might be enough you know, to make them happy to make that their colony happy. But if it's not, then they will mark it with a pheromone and enter what is called the slaughter phase. Now this doesn't always happen, but it can. So if they enter the slaughter phase, the Asian Giant Hornets will enter the honeybee hive grabbing the adult honeybees, decapitating them and dropping their bodies to the ground. Then they'll continue to harvest the brood and the pupae from the hive taking it back to feed their own. While they're doing this, I mentioned they'll defend the hive as their own. So it can be dangerous if you're around the hive when it's happening. So the chances of them really harming our honeybees is it's it's there. And they do it over in their native range. So we don't exactly know how they'll handle it here. But we don't really want to take that chance of losing our honeybees either.

    Nicole: 23:38

    So you mentioned the slaughter phase is that for the sole purpose of then feeding off of the brood, so they need to eradicate all of the colony so that they can get to the brood. Is that the purpose behind that?

    Cassie 23:49

    Yep, it's just kind of how they do it. It's it would be called a hunting, a slaughter, and then an occupation phase. So where they pick one or two off, they eat the entire hive and then when they're done with it, you know, there's either no like valuable pupae left or the hive is just empty, then they will leave it and move on to the next one.

    Nicole: 24:09

    Okay, so they're not killing the workers to eat them. They're just killing them because they're in between them and the brood. Gotcha.

    Cassie 24:16


    Nicole: 24:16

    So Have there been any reported incidences here in the states with the Hornets and the honeybees?

    Cassie 24:22

    We did not have any reports this year as of 2020 yet, however, in 2019, we did have reports from a couple different beekeepers whose hives were decimated. And after further investigation, we were able to determine that some of them did closely very closely resemble Asian Giant Hornets. And we do suspect that to be an Asian Giant Hornet kill. So and those actually happened, you know, kind of around this year, or this time of year last year, which would be kind of late October, early November to possibly in December. Sometimes, you know, as a beekeeper, you don't check your hives daily. So it could have happened within this week's range.

    Nicole: 25:01

    So typically for for beekeepers, if they see their hive is getting robbed out either by another bee colony or by, for example, yellow jackets that we have here in Colorado, it's common to go and kind of close off the enterance and prevent that from happening. But you mentioned earlier that these Hornets could potentially then attack a beekeeper if they're going after a colony, is that correct?

    Cassie 25:25

    Correct. And unfortunately, beekeeping attire will not keep you safe from the sting of an Asian Giant Hornet just because their stinger is so much larger, it will go right through a bee suit.

    Nicole: 25:34

    So I imagine that for the safety of all involved if, if somebody was to witness this happen, it'd be safest just to kind of let it happen.

    Cassie 25:45

    Unfortunately, um, yes, if you're in the state of Washington, it would be very beneficial to call the Washington State Department of Agriculture, especially if you can provide like some type of photo evidence or note the direction they fly off in, we will definitely be on our way to hopefully capture an Asian giant Hornet and track it back to its nest. Since this behavior would be most common of a worker, you know, the workers would really be returning back to the nest.

    Nicole: 26:11

    So is there anything else important that beekeepers need to know about this? Any thing that has come your way that beekeepers should know about?

    Cassie 26:18

    The other thing is I get a lot of questions from beekeepers about you know excluders, as well as just inquiries from the general public, I can't advise on excluders. However, the Washington State University Extension office in Island county here in Washington, is definitely experimenting as well as taking notes from overseas on how excluders and stuff will work there. We did deploy some Sentinel hives in the areas where we suspect Asian Giant Hornet and when it's to be these are experimental, we created kind of the excluder around it with the idea that once the Asian Giant Hornet gets in, it will fly out to leave, but unfortunately, it won't be able to and then the honeybees can get in and out. The one thing that I will say is if you are ever applying any excluder, you know, to make sure that you're not blocking that entrance and getting a buildup of your bees, and they're essentially, you know, starving and dying from the inside out.

    Nicole: 27:09

    Yeah, that would definitely defeat the purpose.

    Cassie 27:12


    Nicole: 27:12

    So what are some other myths or misinformation that that you've heard or questions that you've been asked? Or just, you know, general information that you think should go out to the listeners today?

    Cassie 27:25

    Yeah, so this whole thing kind of blew up in May. The New York Times actually published their article in December of 2019. And they titled it Asian Giant Hornet threatens honeybees in the Pacific Northwest. Following that they were with us in the field as we were setting up experimental traps. And then on May 2, they published their second story and they titled it, "Murder Hornets in the US, the rush to stop Asian Giant Hornet". So this is on a Saturday, right? We're not working and it just blew up like this term Murder Hornet. It created a huge sensation. Asian Giant Hornet are in the spotlight of national and international news. One of our entomologists that was pictured like his jacket became a trending fashion icon. They were memes you know, the word or words were just flooding any type of media possible. Just a couple things like our website alone, we created a Hornets website just for this. And after the first week of this article being published, our engagement was up 415%. But it was unfortunately that spotlights great, but it's in that misguided news form of Murder Hornet. Like I think the best example I can give is, on May 8, like four days after this, this article was published, if you got on Google and you typed in Murder Hornet, you get like 1.8 million news articles. But if you searched Asian Giant Hornet, you'd only get like 148,000. So there's that big spotlight, but it's in this misguided form of Murder Hornet's as people are like, getting on and googling and trying to learn things not all the information they're receiving is correct. One because it's the internet but two it's just really a name that's never been heard before and used in the scientific community. They do have other nicknames like, you know, Giant Sparrow Bee or like Yak Killer Hornet, but Murder Hornet wasn't a very relative term. And then you know, following that there's just kind of anything with Murder Hornets would blow up. There was a trending video for a while where a praying mantis was in a fight with an Asian Giant Hornet. We do believe that that Asian Giant Hornet was you know, kind of put on some ice and it wasn't in its best shape. So, you know, there's just kind of things that go on a lot. Anytime there's Asian Giant Hornet in the news, our contacts with the public definitely spike, which I'm not going to complain about it's a silver lining there is but I just want people to get the best information possible one know the correct term is Asian Giant Hornet and Murder Hornet is not his real name.

    Nicole: 29:55

    Unfortunately, one of the side effects of the internet is bad information. And that's one of the The reasons I'm so thankful that you join me here to talk in and educate people, because there's obviously people that want to know about this. So getting accurate, true information out there, I think is is so important.

    Cassie 30:12

    I believe it to be very important as well. It's not only my job, but it's also there was a lot of panic and a lot of fear when this article first came out, as well as a lot of jokes. And I just want to be able to provide, especially people in the area and beekeepers, the best information in the best tactics possible to learn about Asian Giant Hornet and know what they can do to help prevent the spread and keep their bees you know, their babies safe.

    Nicole: 30:36

    Absolutely. So what are some of the things that you guys are working on? As far as research or questions that that you're trying to answer or eradication or otherwise?

    Cassie 30:47

    Yes, so I'm sorry if I miss a couple of the organizations that I'm going to mention here, but when we did eradicate the Asian Giant Hornet nest, we were able to collect some live specimens to send off for research. So the USDA ARSS is specifically doing some research with some lures and different pheromones that would attract Asian Giant Hornets, so that hopefully next year, we can be more equipped with better bait to lure them into our traps, successfully catching them and taking them back to the nest. They're also going to love on Land Grant Universities, or Land Grant schools for other research and studies. A couple of them were flash frozen and sent over for some Genome Research. And you know, there's just a lot of research coming out of this. And hopefully, we can not only get answers to Asian Giant Hornet questions, there isn't already but to better our tracking program. So currently, we're using in the bait, it's a mixture of orange juice, and rice cooking wine. And we're currently you know, experimenting with different types of bait to replace that we went with the orange juice in the rice cooking wine this year, because it's relatively inexpensive. It's kind of an easy mixture, it's safe for the environment, people can obtain it. But if there's something that we can use, that's a little bit better, and as well, as you know, just to safe, we'd like to be able to go in that direction and better our efforts.

    Nicole: 32:10

    So with all this research that you guys are working on, which I think is is great, but is there not been much research done in Asia on them. So is this information that doesn't exist yet.

    Cassie 32:24

    Just, for example, when I mentioned we're unaware of how far the Queens can disperse, you know that information isn't relatively studied. Asian Giant Hornets are kind of seen in a different light over there. The culture is very different around surrounding Asian Giant hornet, it's been unnecessarily is here, they're actually kind of a delicacy over there, where they eat the larvae and the pupae of the Asian Giant Hornets. So they're seen in a different light than they are here. And as well as Asian Giant Hornets, it's, you know, they've never been introduced over here. So even we can look at research and say, well, we think that this should happen. But we don't exactly know, since it's never happened before they've never been observed over here. We don't know how they will interact with the ecosystem here.

    Nicole: 33:08

    No, that makes absolute sense. It just, I guess I would have assumed that with them being native species to somewhere else, that there would be a baseline of information that you could then take and then integrator or adapt as necessary. So that's really interesting that they are sort of not well studied.

    Cassie 33:26

    Well, I wouldn't say that they're not well studied. There's definitely tons of information out there on Asian giant Hornets. It's just it's kind of like how much information people can handle taking it at once. It doesn't matter how much we can learn and read about them. They're there. We're not there. We're here. So we can do our best guesses. But until we watch and observe, we can't say this is what will happen.

    Nicole: 33:48

    Of course. Now I remember you mentioning at the beginning, that you've been working with some citizen scientists. If somebody wanted to get involved in that, what's the process? Are you still recruiting? And is there a website? Or how do people go about that?

    Cassie 34:02

    Yeah, so the season actually just ended at the end of October. It starts in July. It's about a 17 week commitment. I mean, it's kind of a big commitment. But I think it gave people the opportunity to do something over the summer, as well as like, really help prevent the spread of Asian Giant Hornets, some, you need a couple materials about 15 minutes to put it together. And then it becomes a weekly commitment of checking the bait and checking your trap collections. We also asked them, you know, after each week, when they dump all the insects out, we asked them to send them back to us at the USDA. So that's kind of a commitment to in order to help combat mailing and stuff each week. We did develop some drop off locations where they could go to businesses, drop the insects off in a in a cooler and then the WSJ would pick it up. But citizen scientists they were required to obtain their own bottles. So this could be like a two liter bottle, a 64 ounce juice bottle something clear and plastic, it required them to obtain their own like twine or rope to hang the trap from, they had to cut their own openings in it. And then they had to obtain their own bait mixture, which was the I mentioned before the orange juice in the rice cooking line, each week, they would dump four ounces of and four ounces in it. And then they at the end of the week, they would dump their contents out in through a strainer, look at them on the like on a paper towel or sorting tray, put them in a Ziploc baggie with some alcohol to help keep them from, I don't know, going bad until they got to the lab, and then they would mail them off to us or leave them at the drop off. And then they would fill their big bag up and hang it back up. So you know, it was quite a process that took their time resources as well as some of their money resources. And we're like super grateful and super thankful that so many people got on board with this trapping season. And you know, they stuck with it throughout the entire 17 weeks, some of the results we got from the track collections were really cool.

    Nicole: 36:00

    And do you think you guys will be looking for help again, this coming spring,

    Cassie 36:03

    As far as now we will ask people to do trapping. Again, I don't believe we will require them to save their submissions and mail it back to us unless they have an Asian Giant Hornet. So that really I think kind of makes it more available to people. The reason we asked for the submissions back this year, is we wanted to make sure that our traps weren't collecting insects we didn't want like honeybees or other beneficial pollinators. We also wanted to you know, use the all the best been a captured to kind of create a survey of the different insects in the area. You know, that's never been done before. So that was kind of cool. Cool to see that mini niche. And as the numbers and data's coming in, they are recording it. And then they will analyze it hopefully this winter to get that back out to all the citizen scientists who are like, eager to see what did my trap catch, like? What was flying around in it? So that's kind of cool to give back to them as well.

    Nicole: 36:56

    And how can people get more information? Is there a website that they can go to?

    Cassie 37:00

    The same website as before, There is a tracking link at the top, you can click on that. And it'll take you to a couple of different pages from us.

    Nicole: 37:13

    So with the citizen scientists that are involved, you mentioned that, of course, they were sending in their samples and stuff but But what happens if they do end up with an Asian Giant Hornet and one of their traps?

    Cassie 37:24

    Yeah, so we did this actually, there was actually two citizen scientists who did successfully trap Asian Giant Hornets over the season, we basically instructed people that if they suspect they have an Asian Giant Hornets, we're gonna you know, to not try and empty the trap contents, but get a picture and submit it to us. From then going forward, if we determined it to be Asian Giant Hornet, we had trappers in the area that we would, we would be able to send to their location to handle the Asian Giant Hornet. Now this Asian giant Hornet, you know, it would be in a bottle trap, so it'd be swimming around in that rice wine. And it would essentially be dead after a while, right. So a dead Asian Giant hornet is great, it gives us a good data marker on potentially how close we could be to a nest or if we need to expand our trapping grid. Or if we need to, you know, look into different areas. So dead Asian Giant Hornet, it's really good. However, we can't take a dead Asian Giant Hornet and put a tracker on it, and it'll fly back to the nest, right. So it's really important for us to once we find a dead specimen to actually try and catch a live one. And it's important to catch a live one because we want to find that nest, not just one Hornet but the nest because if we can remove a nest before it's able to reproduce and kick out new Queens, then we're helping to eradicate it. So one data points great and the awesome and it helps us determine if we're close to an nest or not. But being able to have that live Asian Giant Hornet and being able to track it back to its nest, remove that nest gets us one step closer to keeping this pest from establishing in Washington State.

    Nicole: 38:59

    So I'm not super familiar with the area that you've been finding these is this kind of a rural environment or more of a suburban or are they kind of mostly making nests out in the woods? Are they a little bit closer to people?

    Cassie 39:14

    So the literature says that Asian Giant Hornets will typically nest in forested areas on hills. So far, what the one nest we found here did prove to be true. It was kind of in a forested area. Well, it was in a tree cavity kind of on the edge of a path. It was in a backyard near an area they had kind of cleared out. So this area that this Whatcom County area, it's very, I wouldn't say it's very rural, but it is rural. There's lots of farming. There's lots of agriculture, tons of Himalayan Blackberry Bushes, lots of trees. It's right on the border of Canada. It's the most Northwestern portion of Washington.

    Nicole: 39:51

    So is there any last takeaways any other information that you feel like we haven't talked about that people need to know and if not, can you just remind us of the resources available for for folks listening?

    Cassie 40:05

    Not just with Asian Giant Hornets, but with any invasive species, it's really important and crucial to determine if that invasive species is going to have a particular impact on the environment you live in, whether that being positive or negative. And, you know, if it's if it's not going to be beneficial, um, it's really important to try and keep that from establishing. The reason for that is because the amount of money and resources you can spend to keep it from establishing is going to be far less than if it's able to establish, what happens is when you have an invasive species come in, you're going to lose one of your native species or a niche or an environment for something. So it's not just with Asian Giant Hornets, but with any invasive species, you know, to be on the lookout, and be careful when you're traveling, whether that you know, you're traveling across the states, or you're flying in and out and overseas, just to be aware of the environmental impact you could potentially have.

    Nicole: 40:59

    Yeah, that's really great information. I know that there's a lot of people that get frustrated sometimes with like customs and things when they go through and like produce, but you know, this is important, we need to keep insects and things where they belong.

    Cassie 41:14

    Yeah so then I just, I just think I would end with a few. If you suspect something to not be what it is, or you just you have questions, you know, reach out to your Department of Agriculture or a local college and ask questions. And you know, stay informed, because the more you're aware, the more you can help prevent spreads. And the more you can keep pests from establishing and areas they should not be, especially residents of the state of Washington, if you suspect an Asian Giant Hornet reported to the State Department of Agriculture. It's really just your efforts and our efforts combined that will help keep this pest from establishing.

    Nicole: 41:49

    Wonderful. Well, Cassie, thank you so much for your time today. This has been so much wonderful information. And I know that I've learned a lot. And it's so great to get the information from a good resource and not just scouring the internet and getting some conflicting information to say the least. So thank you so much for your time and your education. And I really appreciate it today.

    Cassie 42:10

    Yeah, I appreciate you letting me be a guest on your show. And I hope you have a great week.

    Nicole: 42:15

    Yes, thank you so much you as well. Well, that does it for today's episode. If you'd like to sign up for new episode alerts, submit a question for me to answer on the show. Get behind the scenes content and so much more please text "BackyardBounty" as one word to 44222 or visit Again, that's Backyardbounty 44222 or Thank you so much for joining me for this episode. And I will see you again next week.

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