Sam Husarik has spent the past several months making Asian giant hornet traps to hand out to his Puyallup neighbors.
After collecting everything he needed — empty 2-liter plastic bottles, some string, a box cutter, brown sugar and water — the 18-year-old enlisted family and friends to help him make about 40 traps.
The State Department of Agriculture plans to set up around 1,100 traps starting in July in Whatcom County and nearby counties in Western Washington, where unconfirmed hornet sightings have been reported, as a preemptive measure, said public engagement specialist Karla Salp.
The department is encouraging Washington residents to set up their own traps to help the state monitor any threat activity, by following their Asian giant hornet trapping guide. The plan is to set traps in July and check them every week through November.
If someone decides they’d like to stop setting their traps before November, they should notify the department, Salp said. “It’s a big commitment but it can also be fun for people interested in citizen science.”
About 100 more traps than initially planned will be put out this year after the department received a report earlier this month about a dead Asian giant hornet near Marysville in Snohomish County — the first confirmed reported sighting of the year.
But officials say it does not appear to indicate that there’s a population in Snohomish County or that it’s linked to sightings of Asian giant hornets in Canada or those in Whatcom County within the last two years. “We really think that’s probably just kind of a one-off detection,” Salp said.
The state Agriculture Department removed a hornet nest in Whatcom County last year, removing 98 worker hornets and killing several queens. Salp said the department is working with other state agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other groups to manage any reported sightings.
Asian giant hornets pose a threat to local insect populations and can wipe out an entire hive of honey bees in just a few hours because Western honey bees have no defense mechanism against the hornets, according to Salp. The potential loss of thousands of honey bees is a main concern to the state Agriculture Department, because of its affect on pollination and state agriculture, she said.
Husarik said he decided to make the hornet traps as part of his Eagle Scout project after learning about the problems the Asian giant hornet can cause on the environment.
“I’ve always been interested in the environment,” he said. “I wanted to protect where I live from the invasive species, but I also wanted to do something that would benefit my own community.”
Husarik was delivering traps to neighbors late last week and said all but a few, have been claimed.
Creating an Asian giant hornet trap
Residents who want to participate in trapping can begin by making a trap out of a 2-liter bottle. Mark the top third portion of the bottle with a 2 centimeter horizontal line. Then draw two lines to make an “X” intersecting the first line, according to the WSDA trapping guide. Use a box cutter to carefully cut along the marked lines to create tabs that will be pushed inward.
There are two options trappers can use for the bait mix. The first calls for half a cup of orange juice and half a cup of rice wine. The second can be made with one cup of dark brown sugar and one cup of water. After pouring in the mix, stir well, then place the cap on the bottle and tie the string on the neck of the bottle in preparation to hang it up.
Participants should hang their traps at least 6 feet high, but no higher than 9 feet, on a tree on their property or near the edge of a forest if allowed, according to the guide.
Trappers will need to log the location of each trap on WSDA’s Hornet Watch Trap Submission Map, which can be found on WSDA’s website: agr.wa.gov. Write the provided trap number on the corresponding bottle trap.
Residents who are from a target county with unconfirmed reported sightings, which include Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan Island, Jefferson and Clallam counties, will need to place each trap 50 feet apart if they decide to make more than one.
Trappers will need to check and replace their traps every week, even if no hornets
are caught. People can use a strainer to sort through the contents of each trap and report any insects that appear to be an Asian giant hornet to the state Agriculture Department by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include a photo, date, and trap number.