Washington State’s first ever “murder hornet”, an invasive, destructive pest, was spotted this year. The alien-looking insect was attacking a hive full of paper wasps.
According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, a Whatcom County resident saw the Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, which can grow up to 1.75 inches (4.4 cmimeters), on Aug. 11. This species is only 2 miles (3.2 km) away from Blaine, Washington’s first sighting of the species in the United States.
Sven Spichiger (WSDA managing entomologist), stated in the statement that “this hornet is exhibiting similar behavior to last year — attacking papers wasp nests.” If you live on a property with paper wasp nests, be vigilant and report any Asian giants hornets that you spot. You should also note where they fly to.
Murder hornets, as their name suggests, are skilled killers. The hornets enter “slaughter mode” when they find a honeybee colony. They use their huge mandibles and stingers to kill and decapitate thousands of bees. Once they’ve slaughtered the hive — it takes just a few hornets several hours to take out an entire tens of thousands-strong hive — the hornets defend the hive as their own, snatching up the brood inside to feed their own offspring, WSDA said.
WSDA stated that the giant hornet could also inject prey with a large amount of venom to give a painful sting. According to WSDA, though fatalities from venom injections can occur, it is rare for a large amount to be injected in one sting.
WSDA will place live traps in the area to capture the first sightings of 2021. Entomologists will tag the trapped hornet and track it back to the nest. Officials from the U.S. will set up additional traps because the sighting was only a half-mile away (0.8 km) from U.S.-Canada borders, WSDA stated in a statement.
WSDA used this strategy last fall to track giant hornets. WSDA crews were required to wear protective suits and face shields when they reached the nest in the hollow of a tree. They filled the basketball-size nest with foam and then sucked the 100 to 200 hornets into vacuum canisters, Live Science reported at the time. To eliminate any remaining insects, WSDA covered the nest with plastic and filled it up with carbon dioxide.
WSDA stated that public reports on the Asian giant hornet were crucial in identifying and containing these invasive species. Half of the 31 confirmed reports by the department were submitted by the public last year.