WA scientists seek volunteers for Adopt a Wasp program to monitor ‘murder hornet’ activity

Washington State Department of Agriculture/Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald
·3 min read

The state of Washington is calling for help from residents to get involved in monitoring evidence of Asian giant hornets this summer through their newly-launched Adopt a Wasp program.

The program comes as state scientists work to confirm earlier sightings this week in Whatcom County. Additional citizen trapping and monitoring efforts already in place are set to begin July 1, but the Adopt a wasp program will run from June through October.

Asian giant hornets, or “murder hornets,” are the largest species of hornet in the world. They are extremely aggressive and known to destroy honey bee hives by decapitating the bees, as well as paper wasp nests. The first confirmed murder hornet sighting in the U.S. was in 2019 in Blaine, Washington. In 2021 four murder hornet nests were found and destroyed by the state’s Department of Agriculture, which maintains a live monitoring dashboard mapping any confirmed sightings.

Billed as a “citizen science project,” residents who volunteer for the newly-launched Adopt a Wasp program will be asked to adopt and monitor a paper wasp nest structure for evidence of murder hornet damage. Whatcom County residents have reported paper wasp nests being attacked by hornets in the past two years.

In 2021, additional monitoring efforts by the state revealed the hornets removing paper wasp larvae, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Paper wasps are not typically not aggressive unless provoked, and they live in hanging, open comb nests. The nests tend to be built on tree branches, in abandoned cars, building eaves, and frames. Asian giant hornets are known to attack the same paper wasp nest repeatedly.

The Adopt a Wasp program is seeking residents in the state of Washington to participate, especially those who live in the Whatcom County region and farther down south through to the Puget Sound area.

Here’s how the program will work and how to get involved:

Register

Once the program starts to run in June, Adopt a Wasp program volunteers will need to register the locations of paper wasp nests they’ve found on their property. Prior to that, volunteers can text JOIN WASP to 1-800-443-6684 to receive a text message when it’s time to register wasp nest sites. Weekly reminder texts will also remind volunteers to check their sites.

Locate

Once registered, Adopt a Wasp volunteers can begin to search for wasp nests on their property beginning in June. The Adopt a Wasp official website will soon include an online form to register nest locations, which is also how weekly reports will be filed.

Monitor

In order to complete the program, each site must be monitored regularly and checked at least once a week. There is no limit on how many times it can be checked. The nests must be carefully observed for evidence of hornet or wasp activity, including holes in the nest or hornets actively attacking the wasps.

Report

Once a week through the end of October, a status report must be filed on the Adopt a Wasp website. In the case of a possible Asian giant hornet sighting, volunteers should try to (safely) get a photograph and report it online or by sending an email with the photo to hornets@agr.wa.gov. A Hornet Watch Report Form can also be found here.