Thursday, April 2, 2020

Trapping for Asian giant hornets - 8 things to know

Karla Salp

Please note - if you are not in Washington State, please DO NOT trap for Asian giant hornets. You have virtually no chance of catching an Asian giant hornet but can kill local insects. If you live outside of Washington and believe you have seen Asian giant hornets, please report to your state's invasive species managers, not to WSDA. 

Since the first report of Asian giant hornets in Washington last December, the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) Pest Program has been doing extensive research and planning to find and, if possible, eradicate Asian giant hornets from Washington this summer.

The first step to eradicating this invasive pest - which threatens honeybees and all the crops they pollinate - is to locate the existing Asian giant hornet colonies. To do that, WSDA is enlisting the help of beekeepers and the public to trap and report Asian giant hornets in Washington. But helping out has risks and takes time, so read our list below before you decide to trap.

Here are the top eight things to know about trapping for Asian giant hornets:

  1. You can help trap for Asian giant hornets. WSDA is especially looking for people in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, San Juan, Jefferson, and Clallam counties to trap for Asian giant hornets.
  2. Trapping is a commitment. If you participate in trapping, it will require that you check traps and change the bait once per week for 17 weeks (if you start in July) or up to 34 weeks (if you start in April). You’ll also need to purchase the materials for the trap and bait, as well as mail any specimens you collect to WSDA.
  3. The best time to trap is from July through October. The most likely time to catch Asian giant hornets is from July through October - when colonies are established and workers are out foraging. Traps can be hung as early as April if attempting to trap queens, but since there are significantly fewer queens than workers, catching a queen isn’t very likely.
  4. You could get stung. Trapping for Asian giant hornets could increase your chances of being stung by one. While Asian giant hornets don’t typically bother people, they will sting if they feel threatened. Don’t trap for Asian giant hornets if you are allergic to bee or wasp stings. The venom of the Asian giant hornet is more toxic than that of local bees and wasps.
  5. Hornet traps from the store won’t work. Hornet traps currently on the market in the United States won’t work for Asian giant hornets because their holes are too small. WSDA has researched numerous trapping options and has provided instructions on how to make and monitor homemade traps that will be effective for Asian giant hornets.
  6. Reporting your trap location and catches is very important. Knowing where hornet traps are located and promptly reporting any Asian giant hornet catches will be critical to WSDA’s ability to find and remove Asian giant hornet nests. Failing to do so could thwart WSDA’s attempts to locate Asian giant hornets in Washington.
  7. Do not approach or attempt to remove an Asian giant hornet nest. When trapping, you could come across an Asian giant hornet nest. They typically nest in the ground. Take care when placing traps and if you locate one, do not approach it. Contact WSDA immediately at 1-800-443-6684. WSDA has obtained special equipment for the removal of Asian giant hornet nests.
  8. Beekeepers are helping WSDA evaluate experimental spring “sap traps.” Volunteers from the Mt. Baker Beekeeper Association are working with WSDA to test an experimental “sap trap” which uses tree sap as the bait to attract Asian giant hornets. This experimental trap is for use in the spring when queens emerge.

Trapping for Asian giant hornets is just the first step in locating and eradicating nests. WSDA is still finalizing plans for tracking live, trapped hornets back to their nests. To learn more about Asian giant hornets and WSDA’s program to eradicate them, visit

Update: this blog was updated on April 27, 2020 to add Jefferson County to the list of targeted counties. 

Update: this blog was updated on May 8, 2020 to add information for people outside of Washington State.