The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) Pest Program did not trap or confirm any sightings of the northern giant hornet this year. This is the first time a hornet hasn’t been sighted in a year since a Whatcom County resident reported a dead specimen in December 2019.
In 2020, entomologists from the WSDA found and eradicated the first northern giant hornet nest in the U.S., followed by another three nests in 2021. All four nests were located east of Blaine.
While no northern giant hornets have been detected this year, they are not considered eradicated. Federal guidelines require three consecutive years without detection to declare the hornets eradicated.
“While not detecting any hornets this year is promising, the work to ensure they are eradicated is not over yet,” said Sven Spichiger, the WSDA managing entomologist. “Research to develop a better trap continues and public reports — which account for half of all confirmed detections — remain critical.”
In addition to the northern giant hornet, the state has made progress in handling Japanese beetles and spongy moths.
This year, trappers have caught over 23,000 Japanese beetles in Yakima County, representing a slight decline in detections from 2021 but an increase in trappings. Though the WSDA was unable to treat the Yakima area in 2021, WSDA trapping, community outreach and residents and businesses actively self-treating their properties likely contributed to the decline in detections. Trapped beetles have been primarily found in the WSDA’s new quarantine zone, though beetles have been trapped outside the zone, including in Wapato. The WSDA will continue working on a multi-year eradication project in 2023 as it seeks to eliminate the beetles.
The WSDA has also increased the number of spongy moths it’s trapped this year. So far in 2022, trappers have caught 30 spongy moths, up from six in 2021. WSDA staff have conducted surveys in areas where moths were captured but did not observe moths of different life stages, such as eggs and pupae. In 2023, WSDA’s invasive moth program will conduct intensive trapping in areas where moths were trapped this year, though no spongy moth eradication projects are planned.
Despite detections of Japanese beetles and spongy moths, many species the WSDA looked for this year were not found.
“When it comes to the pests that we survey for, the best news is no news,” Spichiger said. “Monitoring for these pests allows us to react quickly to eradicate them if they are found. It also gives confidence to our trading partners that Washington commodities can be safely enjoyed around the world without the threat of spreading invasive pests.”
The WSDA Pest Program monitors the state for over 130 pests and diseases that could impact agricultural production each year. The program has protected Washington state’s agriculture, forests and other natural resources from invasive species for decades.