In the middle of another heatwave, smoke and resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic, an unwelcome Washington newcomer has raised its ugly sting again: the Asian giant hornet.
A homeowner on Tuesday photographed the 2-inch-long foreign invader, also known as a murder hornet, as it was attacking paper wasp nests under the eave of a home near Blaine, Washington, located in the state’s northwest corner.
“The sighting is about 2 miles from where we eradicated the nest last fall,” said Carla Salp, spokeswoman for the Washington state Department of Agriculture. “It’s the first live sighting of an Asian giant hornet this year.”
The photograph was submitted and it was confirmed to be most likely a worker hornet by a state entomologist.
“This hornet is exhibiting the same behavior we saw last year – attacking paper wasp nests,” Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist said in a news release. “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.”
The sighting presented state officials, who have been tasked with eradicating the foreign species, with a dose of reality, Salp said.
“It would be a lot more concerning if it was a great distance from where we found them,” she said. “They seem to still be in the northwest corner of Whatcom County.”
Immediately after confirming the discovery, entomologists went to the area and set up traps in an effort to catch a live specimen, she said.
“Efforts are underway to capture, tag and track a hornet to its nest,” Salp said.
The Asian giant hornets, which are not native to the U.S., are the world’s largest hornet and prey on honey bees and other insects. A small group of Asian giant hornets can kill an entire honey bee hive in a matter of hours.
The state received no reports of bee hive attacks last fall “which was surprising to us because there were several reports from the previous year, Salp said.
“We are still moving forward on an eradication path. That’s our goal,” she said. “But, it’s an extremely difficult insect to eradicate.”
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