The Washington State Department of Agriculture has confirmed the first sighting of a live Asian giant hornet (nickname: murder hornet) in the state this year, the agency said in a news release.
Yes I am back on my murder hornet BS. And coincidentally, I am writing this about an hour after a regular-sized (enormous) wasp was prowling around in my kitchen and I had to shoo it outside with a broom handle and a lot of swearing.
You may recall last year, when many of us were introduced to the Asian giant hornet after it was spotted in the US for the first time. The WSDA trapped its first specimen last August, and eradicated its first Asian giant hornet nest in October. I encourage you to read the news release of that eradication event because it’s incredibly satisfying to read an entomologist hero story. Example:
In all, the entomologists with WSDA’s Pest Program removed 98 worker hornets. During the early morning extraction, 85 hornets were vacuumed out of the nest and collected another 13 live hornets were collected with a net while observing the nest
Hell yes, entomologists.
The first murder hornet sighting of 2021 in Washington came on August 11th, via a resident of Whatcom County, near the Canadian border. The WSDA confirmed it was an Asian giant hornet a day later, thanks to a photo of the hornet attacking a paper wasp nest in a rural area east of Blaine, Washington.
“This hornet is exhibiting the same behavior we saw last year — attacking paper wasp nests,” Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist said in a statement. “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.”
Yes definitely note the direction they fly off to and then go the other way. Quickly.
Just to review: a queen Asian giant hornet can grow to be two inches long. The hornets are invasive pests that rip the heads off of honeybees and then feed the bodies to their young. They can fly at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, and their stingers are long enough to puncture most beekeeping suits. The WSDA says a small group of them can kill an entire honeybee hive “in a matter of hours.”
For comparison (brace yourself):
The WSDA says it will be setting live traps in the area where this nest was discovered, and try to catch a live hornet in order to tag it and track it back to its nest. Canadian officials will be doing the same, since the sighting was so close to the border. According to the WSDA, half of its confirmed reports and all of the Canadian authorities’ reports came from the public, so good job everyone, at least we’re keeping an eye out for them. However, they haven’t caught any live murder hornets in traps so far this year.