Citizen Scientists Take Action Against Deadly WA hornets

Hornet traps are simple devices, with community members and state trappers using the same materials: two-liter plastic jugs, hung from trees and filled with everyday cooking utensils like sugar. orange juice and rice cooking wine. The trappers cut star-shaped designs from the jugs, which they fill with sweet, smelly liquid. Hornets attracted to the bait make their way to the entrance and drown in the mixture. The state has also set up live traps, which include a screen over the bait to prevent the hornets from drowning.

Judy Cobb Dailey, a community trapper living in Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood, said her husband “has moved heaven and earth” to set up their first beehive under neighborhood regulations in June. She didn’t expect that building a hornet trap would cost $ 70, a reasonable amount for a science project.

“My grandson immediately drank a few cans of juice and my daughter needed the rice cooking wine, and I’ll have to replenish our reserves,” says Dailey. But the trap installation instructions, she says, were excellent. “We think we are protecting our neighborhood. And I hope to God that we won’t have a hornet.

Last year, about half of the 31 confirmed hornet sightings in Washington state were from community members; across the border in British Columbia, the six confirmed sightings were from community members.

Kim Baxter of Oak Harbor got involved in the trapping last year after convincing herself that she had seen a giant Asian hornet in real life. “The head … and the waist were so distinctive [that] when I saw the photo, I was like, that was it, ”Baxter says.

Setting up the trap – which she points out to her friends when they visit – was easy, Baxter says. And while the trap doesn’t add much aesthetically to the budding master gardener’s 5-acre woodland, it could serve the pollinators that cross lavender, clover, and Baxter’s squash; her husband plans to keep bees.

Baxter says she knows government workers need amateur hornet hunters like her to keep watch. “It would be impossible to cover that much ground without having more eyes. You just can’t watch the whole state.

State scientists are still going through last year’s pitfalls. “The response from the public has been so much greater than we expected, which is part of the reason why they are still dealing with bugs,” says Salp. As a result of community trapping last year, investigators even discovered there was spotted wing drosophila – a problematic fruit fly – in the state, something no one had detected before.

This past summer, people also solved the trapping problem in a big way. Salp says scientists realized that hornets could escape early living traps because of their square design. To prevent escape, the state changed its mid-season traps and adjusted the design recommendations given to Citizen Scientists: the advice now is to cut an asterisk off the sides of the jugs. This summer, the state is also advising people to use bait traps with a mixture of brown sugar that has worked well to trap European hornets on the east coast.

“We learned a lot over the past year,” says Anne LeBrun, national policy manager in the USDA Plant and Animal Health Inspection Service.

Scientists like Murray’s colleague at the WSU, David Crowder, have started projects using data from the community from last year. Based in part on those submissions, Crowder has developed digital tools to help inform the state’s trapping efforts, also drawing on the climate and winds that can favor the hornet’s spread.

The USDA is also coordinating two research projects to better understand giant hornets and improve the eradication program, LeBrun says. These projects include a multi-year molecular research project examining the genetic diversity of the hornet in its native range in East Asia, particularly Japan, to determine where the North American specimens came from and what he could settle here. Tests are also under development to determine whether Asian giant hornets are responsible for the dead hives. DNA found in fecal pellets from the extracted nest is sequenced to identify what Asian giant hornets eat in Washington.

Another project aims to improve the decoys used to capture hornets, the first step in tracking live hornets to their nests. The USDA Agricultural Research Service in Wapato identifies pheromones and food attractants specific to the life stage of adult hornets.

What is the real threat

Just because the hornets are calm right now doesn’t mean that there isn’t much to do.

The state aims to install 1,100 traps this summer, including at least 655 to date. Salp says no giant hornets have been reported yet.

WSU’s Crowder co-wrote an article showing that Washington state is the type of place giant hornets can make their home. Giant hornets prefer wooded areas, of which Washington has a lot. But climate change can put the brakes on the hornet’s expansion.

“With all invasive species, ecological disturbances are kind of their jam,” says Murray. These disturbances – drought, exposed soil, fire and beyond – can create conditions conducive to invasive species, Murray explains. “For [Asiant giant hornets], it’s hard to say whether the predictors of the Pacific Northwest climate model will help or deter him.

But despite the unknowns, there is no indication that the Asian giant hornets are currently of great concern to pest managers or beekeepers.

Japanese beetles are rampant in Yakima, Murray says, while European beetles tear the lawns of Puget Sound and Asian longhorn beetles continue to cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to North American cities. “There are certainly some very serious pest threats out there right now,” he says.

Kevin Oldenburg, an amateur beekeeper and president of the Washington State Beekeepers Association, says his thousands of members know about giant hornets but are more immediately concerned about other threats, especially the varroa mite – a parasite that sucks up fat from live bees and transmits viruses – and bee-killing pesticides.

“If you ask a beekeeper, ‘Name your top five concerns about beekeeping,’ they’ll answer: Varroa mite, Varroa mite, Varroa mite, pesticides, pesticides,” says Oldenburg.

Few of Washington’s beekeepers have even seen a giant hornet. So far, Oldenburg has not heard of any of its beekeepers having lost a beehive or having seen an attack this year. “I think everyone on the west side is really paying attention to this, but I don’t think it’s a very big concern,” he says.

Baxter, the hornet trapper from the Oak Harbor area, mentally prepared for what she would do if she saw a bee-killing hornet. She carries her cell phone in the yard more than she ever has, just in case she needs to take a picture before it takes off. “I thought of different ways,” she says. “If I see one, could I trap it under a bucket or something?” But I think I would be able to react and contact people.

Lining: community engagement

Whether or not they found hornets, Washingtonians participating in the trapping gave themselves learning opportunities and connected with nature.

Bevin Hall and Adira Meiches set their trap – a recycled cranberry juice bottle filled with rice cooking wine and orange juice – in a palm tree in their garden. Once a week, they empty the trap and identify the insects they catch; so far, says Adira, they’ve only found ants.

The first week at Dailey’s trap in Montlake produced an “incredible” number of fruit flies, as well as two flies and 17 bees. “Queens lay 1,500 to 2,500 eggs a day, so we’re not too worried about killing 17 bees a week,” says Dailey. “The process was fun and easy. My grandson and I are learning more about insects.

Even in their fairly urban neighborhood of Tacoma, says Bevin Hall, trapping offers people of all ages a way to experience the natural environment without having to do too much work.

“There are so many things we didn’t know about in our environment that matter,” says Bevin, “All bees, wasps and hornets matter. “

“And butterflies and moths,” Adira adds. “Everything counts. “

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