Washington state’s first live ‘murder hornet’ of 2021 spotted

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An Asian giant hornet has been spotted alive for the first time this year in Washington state.

The sighting was reported by a resident in Whatcom County on Wednesday, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Entomologists confirmed Thursday that it was indeed an Asian giant hornet, also known as a “murder hornet.”

Officials said the report included an image showing the hornet attacking a paper wasp nest in a rural area east of Blaine, just two miles from where WSDA eradicated the first Asian giant hornet nest in the country last October.

WSDA Managing Entomologist Sven Spichiger said the hornets were observed attacking paper wasp nests in 2020.

“If you have paper wasp nests on your property and live in the area, keep an eye on them and report any Asian giant hornets you see. Note the direction they fly off to as well,” said Spichiger.

WSDA officials will set traps near where the hornet was spotted this week in the hopes of catching one alive. If they catch one, officials will tag it and try to track it back to its nest. The WSDA said authorities in British Columbia will also set live traps since the hornet was seen just half a mile from the U.S./Canadian border.

Officials said public reports of sightings are crucial to finding and eradicating Asian giant hornets. Half of the WSDA’s confirmed reports and all of Canada’s confirmed reports in 2020 came from the public, the WSDA said.

So far this year, there have been two confirmed reports in Washington, both of which were from community members. No sightings have been confirmed in B.C.

Despite traps being set throughout the state, none have yet caught any hornets this year.

Asian giant hornets, which are invasive pests not native to the U.S., prey on other insects like honeybees. A small group of hornets can wipe out a honeybee hive in just hours.

They can also be deadly to humans. In Japan, Asian giant hornets — the world’s largest type of hornet — kill up to 50 people a year, reported the New York Times.

The hornets are native to Japan, South Korea, China and several other East Asian countries.

You can report a suspected Asian giant hornet sighting online or by sending an email to hornets@agr.wa.gov or calling 1.800.443.6684.

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