In this April 23, 2020, photo provided by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, a researcher holds a dead Asian giant hornet in Blaine, Wash. The world’s largest hornet, a 2-inch long killer with an appetite for honey bees, has been found in Washington state and entomologists are making plans to wipe it out. Dubbed the “Murder Hornet” by some, the Asian giant hornet has a sting that could be fatal to some humans. It is just now starting to emerge from hibernation. (Karla Salp/Washington State Department of Agriculture via AP)

‘Murder Hornets,’ with sting that can kill, land in Washington State

The hornet was sighted for the first time in the U.S. last December

The world’s largest hornet, a 2-inch killer dubbed the “Murder Hornet” with an appetite for honey bees, has been found in Washington state, where entomologists were making plans to wipe it out.

The giant Asian insect, with a sting that could be fatal to some humans, is just now starting to emerge from winter hibernation.

“They’re like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face,” said Susan Cobey, a bee breeder at Washington State University.

“It’s a shockingly large hornet,” said Todd Murray, a WSU Extension entomologist and invasive species specialist. “It’s a health hazard, and more importantly, a significant predator of honey bees.”

The hornet was sighted for the first time in the U.S. last December, when the state Department of Agriculture verified two reports near Blaine, Washington, close to the Canadian border. It also received two probable, but unconfirmed reports from sites in Custer, Washington, south of Blaine.

READ MORE: South Surrey man suspects ‘huge’ visitor near 16 Ave. & 172 St. was Asian giant hornet

The hornet can sting through most beekeeper suits, deliver nearly seven times the amount of venom as a honey bee, and sting multiple times, the department said, adding that it ordered special reinforced suits from China.

The university said it isn’t known how or where the hornets arrived in North America. It normally lives in the forests and low mountains of eastern and southeast Asia and feeds on large insects, including wasps and bees. It was dubbed the “Murder Hornet” in Japan, where it is known to kill people.

The hornet’s life cycle begins in April, when queens emerge from hibernation, feed on plant sap and fruit, and look for underground dens to build their nests. Hornets are most destructive in the late summer and early fall. Like a marauding army, they attack honey bee hives, killing adult bees and devouring larvae and pupae, WSU said.

Their stings are big and painful, with a potent neurotoxin. Multiple stings can kill humans, even if they are not allergic, the university said.

Farmers depend on honey bees to pollinate many important northwest crops such as apples, blueberries and cherries. With the threat from giant hornets, “beekeepers may be reluctant to bring their hives here,” said Island County Extension scientist Tim Lawrence.

An invasive species can dramatically change growing conditions, Murray said, adding that now is the time to deal with the predators.

“We need to teach people how to recognize and identify this hornet while populations are small, so that we can eradicate it while we still have a chance,” Murray said.

The state Department of Agriculture will begin trapping queens this spring, with a focus on Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan, and Island counties.

Hunting the hornets is no job for ordinary people.

“Don’t try to take them out yourself if you see them,” Looney said. “If you get into them, run away, then call us!”

READ MORE: Nanaimo beekeepers take down nest of invasive giant hornets

Nicholas K. Geranios, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

State of WashingtonWildlife

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kootenay Robuster rally for highway clean-up

Social distancing measures were taken during the weekend sweep of Christina Lake

Columbia River Treaty continues during COVID

Message from Kathy Eichenberger

Kidney Walk goes virtual on Sunday

To register visit kidneywalk.ca

Petition to support employment of Canada’s autistic adults

Letter to the Editor from Cameron A. Straughan

More than 900 masks made through Rossland’s #Masks4all campaign

The campaign was launched in late April to get more residents to wear masks during COVID-19 crisis

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

B.C. starts to see employment return under COVID-19 rules

Jobless rate for young people still over 20% in May

Kelowna Mountie on desk duty following ‘aggressive’ arrest

The officer involved in an arrest that took place on May 30 in Kelowna has been placed on administrative duties

Protests shift to memorializing George Floyd amid push for change

‘There is something better on the other side of this,’ says Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom

Columbia Basin Trust expands programming to support businesses

The revised programs will help local businesses to reopen and modify operations

Most Read