Washington agriculture officials announced Friday the state has its first confirmed siting of the Asian giant hornet this year.
The hornet was found dead on Wednesday along a road near Custer, located in northwestern Washington north of Ferndale and south of Blaine, which is where two of the large stinging insects were found in December.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture confirmed the species sighting through a photograph Thursday. State and federal labs examined the hornet and confirmed Friday it was an Asian giant hornet.
“Again, there is no need to panic at this point because we caught another Asian giant hornet,” said Karla Salp, a public engagement specialist for the agriculture department. “It was in an area where we had a bee kill suspected. This really isn’t changing our plan.”
State officials are working with federal counterparts as part of an effort to eradicate the invasive species.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has developed response guidelines that include several options for eradicating the Asian giant hornet should additional hornets be detected in Washington State,” Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator for the USDA/APHIS, said in a news release.
“At this time, there is no evidence that Asian giant hornets are established in Washington State or anywhere else in the United States,” she said.
The confirmed siting follows another on May 15 in British Columbia near Langley. Salp said officials don’t know whether the Washington hornet came from an established nest or had flown south from Canada.
The invasive species, which is believed to have come from either Japan or South Korea, is the world’s largest hornet and hunts other insects. Honey bees are among its favorite prey. A small number of Asian giant hornets can kill an entire bee hive in a matter of hours, Salp said.
“We are going to be doing DNA testing to see if it’s related to the ones we collected last year,” she said. “We expect that more will be popping up here in the coming weeks as Asian giant hornets become more active. That’s all part of the process of locating and removing the actual colonies.”
Since the two giant hornet specimens were confirmed in Washington late last year, state entomologists have been working with the USDA to create trapping and eradication plans for the invasive pest in order to protect honey bees and the hundreds of crops in Washington that depend on those bees for pollination.
“This is truly a collaborative effort,” said Sven Spichiger, the managing entomologist for WSDA’s Pest Program. “From federal and state partners to individual beekeepers and proactive community members, it will take all of us working together to locate and eradicate Asian giant hornets from our state.”
Working with volunteers, Salp said the state currently has hundreds of specialized traps in place to try to catch and locate where the hornets may be colonizing.
“We’ve caught nothing in the traps,” she said. “We have a few hundred traps that have been set although we are encouraging people to wait until July. The chances of getting a queen right now are very low. July is when we would be more likely to be catching workers.”
She did not know whether the hornet found Wednesday was a queen or a worker hornet, although the testing continues, she said.
The hornet’s string is more dangerous than that of local bees and wasps, and can cause severe pain, swelling, necrosis and, in rare cases, even death. Anyone who is allergic to bee or wasp stings should not approach or attempt to trap an Asian giant hornet.
Visit agr.wa.gov/hornets to learn more about Asian giant hornets and the state’s trapping and eradication project.
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