BLAINE, Wash. — Entomologists have confirmed the first sighting of a live Asian giant hornet in Washington state in 2021.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) says the insect, otherwise known as a “murder hornet,” was reported Wednesday by a resident of Whatcom County. That’s along the Canadian border, north of Seattle.
The report included a photo of the Asian giant hornet attacking a paper wasp nest in a rural area east of Blaine, which is about 2 miles from where officials eradicated the first “murder hornet” nest in the U.S. last October, according to WSDA.
“This hornet is exhibiting the same behavior we saw last year – attacking paper wasp nests,” WSDA managing entomologist Sven Spichiger wrote in a statement. “If you have paper wasp nests on your property and live in the area, keep an eye on them and report any Asian giant hornets you see. Note the direction they fly off to as well.”
In response to this sighting, state officials say they’ll be setting live traps in the area in an attempt to catch a live hornet, tag it, and track it back to the nest. Officials say the British Columbia government will also be setting additional traps in Canada.
So far this year, officials say there have only been two confirmed reports of Asian giant hornet sightings in the state, and both were from public reports.
Asian giant hornets are an invasive pest not native to the U.S. They are the world’s largest hornet and prey on honeybees and other insects. These hornets may attack honeybee hives in the late summer or early fall. A small group of Asian giant hornets can kill an entire honeybee hive in a matter of hours.
Honeybees are essential to maintaining agriculture in the U.S. because they’re widely used to pollinate crops. However, their colonies face numerous threats in addition to "murder hornets," like parasites and harmful pesticides.