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Stop killing bees: You likely don’t have an Asian Giant Hornet

There have been three positively identified and confirmed Asian Giant Hornet sightings in northern Washington and the nearby region this spring.

The first was spotted near Langley, British Columbia, in the middle of May. The second was found dead near Custer, Wash., on May 27. And the latest specimen was found June 6, near Bellingham, about 15 miles away from the Custer specimen.

Karla Salp with the Washington State Department of Agriculture said the public has been reporting sightings all over the place, but most of those sightings are not of Asian Giant Hornets.

“We’re getting reports from everywhere and not just in Washington,” she said. “In the whole of North America, the only place where they have been confirmed is Washington state and British Columbia.”

The downside of everyone looking for this particular hornet and misidentifying them is that people are killing the wrong bees when they see them. People are trapping and killing every day, ordinary insects.

“That makes me really sad that we are putting a bumblebee, which is a really beneficial insect, very gentle, they are highly unlikely to sting you, and to see that people are either killing bees or starving them to death (in jars) is really sad,” Salp said.

If you see a real Asian Giant Hornet, it will be like nothing you have seen before. Think small hummingbird, not a cute and fuzzy bumblebee.

“If it’s a fuzzy, hairy insect, it is not an Asian Giant Hornet,” Salp said. “If it looks fuzzy and you might want to pet it, it’s not an Asian Giant Hornet.”

Look for yellow coloring. Bumblebees have yellow stripes. Yellow jackets are yellow. So are wasps. The bald faced hornet is white and black. Even a sawfly, which can be big, has yellow markings.

Asian Giant Hornets are orange.

“It has a huge, orange head,” Salp said. “The stripes are really more orange and black. … It’s like a tiger. A flying, small tiger.”

If you think you see one, try to get a picture of it. Don’t kill it. Report it, and let the professionals worry about identifying it.

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

“Maybe if you’re able to capture it and put it in a jar and not kill it, you can let us know, and we can verify whether it is indeed an Asian Giant Hornet or not,” she said.

The state is getting ready to step up its trapping program, which should intensify in July.

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