Washington gets first confirmed ‘murder hornet’ sighting of 2020

May 29, 2020, 11:11 AM | Updated: 2:27 pm
Murder hornet, giant hornet...
A giant hornet seen in northern Washington earlier this year. (Photo credit: Joel Nielsen)
(Photo credit: Joel Nielsen)

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) reported on Friday the first confirmed sighting of an Asian giant hornet in the state in 2020. A resident near Custer, Wash., found the dead hornet while walking, and submitted a photo through WSDA’s Hornet Watch Report Form online.

Entomologists from the WSDA confirmed Thursday that the photo appeared to be of an Asian giant hornet, which was then confirmed by state and federal labs after the specimen was collected and submitted for testing Friday.

The hornet found by the resident was near the location of a suspected Asian giant hornet bee kill last year. WSDA already had plans to set up traps in the area to find any colony that may be present.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has developed response guidelines that include several options for eradicating the Asian giant hornet should additional hornets be detected in Washington State. At this time, there is no evidence that Asian giant hornets are established in Washington State or anywhere else in the United States,” according to Osama El-Lissy, Deputy Administrator for USDA/APHIS’ Plant Protection and Quarantine program.

WSDA received the first report of Asian giant hornet last December from a resident near Blaine, Wash., and a specimen in the area collected by Washington State University. These were the first confirmed sightings of the giant hornet in the United States.

The Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest hornet, and a dangerous predator of honey bees, able to destroy an entire hive in a matter of hours.

Entomologists in the state are working with the USDA, attempting to trap and eradicate the hornets to protect honey bees and the crops in Washington that depend on those bees.

How Washington is gearing up to fight the infamous ‘murder hornet’

“This is truly a collaborative effort,” said Sven Spichiger, managing entomologist for WSDA’s Pest Program. “From federal and state partners to individual beekeepers and proactive community members, it will take all of us working together to locate and eradicate Asian giant hornets from our state.”

Typical hornet and wasp traps will not catch Asian giant hornets as the holes are too small for the giant hornets to enter the traps, but there are trapping instructions available for any citizen scientists who may be interested in helping with the trapping and reporting efforts.

The WSDA says giant hornets are not typically aggressive toward humans, but do pose a significant health threat.

“Their string is more dangerous than that of local bees and wasps and can cause severe pain, swelling, necrosis, and, in rare cases, even death.”

If you are allergic to bee or wasp stings, do not approach or attempt to trap the giant hornets. Learn more about Asian giant hornets and the state’s trapping and eradication project online here.

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Washington gets first confirmed ‘murder hornet’ sighting of 2020