Several Skagit County agencies have banded together to catch an unwelcome new arrival — the Asian giant hornet.
County, city and tribal governments have been given traps to catch the predatory insect. Some of the traps have been set up, with more to be installed soon.
Anacortes Parks and Recreation Director Jonn Lunsford said his department reached out to the state Department of Agriculture to assist in a large-scale effort to trap the hornets.
He said his department helped bring others on board, including Skagit County Parks and Recreation, the Port of Anacortes, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe.
“Hopefully this will help us stop an invasive hornet before it gets established,” Lunsford said.
He said 10 traps have been dispersed among the agencies. Three of the five given to Anacortes Parks and Recreation have been set up so far.
“We want to do this in a more efficient, scientific and coordinated way,” he said. “It made sense to reach out to tribal and nontribal governments. We want to cast as wide a net as we could.”
He said his department took steps to set up the traps on the edges of forests, following Department of Agriculture guidelines.
Brian Adams, director of Skagit County Parks and Recreation, said his department will install its four traps soon. They’ll be spread out in various parts of the county, he said.
Insects caught in the traps will be sent to the Department of Agriculture.
Lunsford said that once the state enters later phases of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening guidelines, residents may be able to join in the effort — as long as they coordinate with the agencies.
“We have to make sure they’re not placing traps in parks without our knowledge and consent,” he said. “Trapping is a large commitment. Once we can have volunteers we’ll make a call to get people involved who want to. Due to COVID we’ll have to delay. We’ll train them according to state guidelines.”
Lunsford said his department will work with Transition Fidalgo and the Friends of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands to coordinate volunteers when the state gets to phases 2 and 3.
Karla Salp, a public engagement specialist with the Department of Agriculture, said it would be best if volunteers held off installing traps until July, when the hornets’ activity is expected to ramp up.
She said the effort may allow the Department of Agriculture to home in on colonies.
“If we get a catch in any trap, we’ll go out and put out a higher density grid of traps around the area. The idea is to narrow in where a colony will be,” she said. “The Department of Agriculture will trap for live hornets to tag them, release them and follow them back to their colony. It’s the first step of the process ... identifying where they are.”
The first Asian giant hornets spotted in the U.S. were seen in Blaine late last year. They are especially large and dangerous predators that prey on other insects including wasps and honey bees.