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Murder hornets
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No, you can’t keep ‘murder hornets’ as pets in Washington state

An Asian giant hornet from Japan is held on a pin by an entomologist with the Washington state Dept. of Agriculture. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Asian Giant Hornets are set to emerge from their months-long hibernation in the Northwest any day now, and state officials are looking for new ways to fight their spread.

Washington gears up for second round of fight against Asian giant hornets

If approved, a new proposal from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) would classify the Asian Giant Hornet — known colloquially as the “murder hornet” — as a quarantined pest, prohibiting the species from being sold, distributed, or “knowingly moved or received within Washington.” That also means that it would be illegal to keep or raise the species as a pet.

The hornet’s moniker stems from the way it’s known to violently decimate beehives in a matter of hours. Its stingers are also longer than that of a honeybee, with far more toxic venom. While not necessarily lethal to humans, typical beekeeping equipment does not provide sufficient protection.

The new proposal from the WSDA would also add a series of new rules for so-called infested sites, “defined as all real property within 20 meters of a nest containing any life stage of hornet,” which could potentially encompass occupied homes and properties.

If a site gets designated as infested, no one would be permitted to enter the area — unless they’ve received prior authorization from the WSDA — until the hornets are safely removed. The WSDA also clarified that “people will not be removed or prevented from entering their homes” if they reside within the boundaries of an infested area.

“This limits the risk to public health and safety, as well as prevents further infestation,” the WSDA said in a written overview of its proposal.

The WSDA will be hearing public comments on its proposal at 1 p.m. on May 11 over video, and is accepting written comments through that date as well.

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

Last fall, the department located and destroyed an Asian giant hornet nest on private property east of Blaine. The nest was the first of its kind to be found in the United States; Asian giant hornets have not been seen on American soil outside of Whatcom County, though they have been spotted just across the border in British Columbia.

The hornets were believed to have entered into hibernation sometime in December, and are expected to emerge any day now in April. During that period, state entomologists have been working to study trapping methods used in East Asia, and analyzing which of those would work best in Washington.

Overall, the Department of Agriculture remains hopeful the problem can be contained, because the hornets have not spread beyond the northwest corner of Whatcom County since they were first found here in 2019.

KIRO Radio reporter Nicole Jennings contributed to this report.

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