Washington state confirms first live ‘murder hornet’ sighting of the year | Washington state

Washington state has confirmed its second “murder hornet” sighting of 2021 – the first glimpse of a live one, officials reported.

A statement released by the Washington state department of agriculture (WSDA) confirms the first report of a live Asian giant hornet in the state this year.

The sighting was reported on Wednesday by a Whatcom county resident, about two miles from where the WSDA eradicated the first Asian giant hornet nest found in the US last October.

Two months ago, scientists found a dead hornet north of Seattle, marking the first murder hornet found in the US this year.

“This hornet is exhibiting the same behavior we saw last year – attacking paper wasp nests,” said Sven Spichiger, WSDA’s managing entomologist.

“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,” he added.

Paper wasps are much smaller than Asian giant hornets and make their nests out of papery material they create from dead wood and plant fibers and their saliva.

Their foe, the 2in-long invasive hornet, was first found near the US-Canadian border in December 2019.

Native to Asia, the Asian giant hornet poses a threat to honeybees and native hornet species. If left to spread unchecked, the hornets can destroy a honeybee hive in just hours by feeding on the larvae and decapitating bees in what scientists call their “slaughter phase”, feeding severed body parts to their own young.

While they are not particularly aggressive towards humans, their sting is extremely painful. One expert described it as “having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh”. The sting can result in renal failure and death.

And the hornets can also squirt venom. Chris Looney, a WSDA entomologist who was tasked with vacuuming the hornets in October, wore goggles during the removal process, saying: “I was more worried about getting permanent nerve damage in the eye from the squirted venom than being stung.”

Following Wednesday’s sighting, the WSDA announced that it would be setting traps in the area in attempts to catch a live hornet, tag it and track it back to its nest.

The British Columbia government will be doing the same, as the sighting took place approximately half a mile from the US-Canadian border.

The Asian giant hornets are incredibly difficult to locate, despite their size, as they tend to remain in forested areas.

“Because they’re an apex predator, they’re few and far between. And it doesn’t help that their nests are often underground,” Dr Paul van Westendorp, British Columbia’s chief beekeeper, told the Guardian last year.

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