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Asian giant hornet
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First Asian giant hornet of the year spotted in Snohomish County yard

An Asian giant hornet found in Marysville. (WSDA)

The first Asian giant hornet of 2021 has been found, but not in Whatcom County, where the species has been more prevalent over the last year. A dead, dried male hornet was observed laying in a yard in Marysville on June 4.

The good news is that it doesn’t look like the Whatcom County or British Columbian hornets have actually spread in any meaningful way into Snohomish County. Genetic testing shows that this hornet is unrelated to hornets found in areas further north in Washington or in British Columbia. Its coloring is also different from those hornets.

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“Basically, it seems to be a separate event,” said state entomologist Sven Spichiger. “And I want to very much clarify that a single dead specimen does not indicate a population.”

Scientists believe that this hornet may be a one-off that could have stowed away here on a container ship. This has happened on numerous other occasions before, as Spichiger pointed out.

“There was basically a mail-order shipment of shirts or clothing — and where it was packed, a hornet had wandered into it and died,” he said. “And when the person unpacked this package, a dead hornet fell out.”

This is all part of living in a coastal state with prominent international ports — such as the Port of Everett, which is just a few miles from Marysville.

“We do have such a vibrant global trade market here in Washington … Unfortunately, hitchhikers are a side effect of all of the commerce that we do globally,” Spichiger said.

That said, state entomologists are also baffled because male hornets typically don’t show up until July.

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“The find is perplexing because it is too early for a male to emerge,” Dr. Osama El-Lissy with the USDA said in a written release. “Last year, the first males emerged in late July, which was earlier than expected. However, we will work with WSDA to survey the area to verify whether a population exists in Snohomish County.”

Because this hornet was dried-up, and because it’s too early in the year for male hornets to be out, scientists believe this one was from a previous year.

Spichiger suggested that it may have died awhile ago in a tree or another sheltered spot, and then fallen into the yard recently, as a dead hornet laying in a yard a long time would’ve long since been eaten by an animal or would have deteriorated from exposure to the elements.

Just to be sure that there are no other hornets in the area, the state will be putting up traps in Snohomish and King Counties, and will also be encouraging residents of those areas to make their own homemade traps. But the main focus will still be on Whatcom County, where one nest was found and destroyed last year.

MyNorthwest staff contributed to this report

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