First confirmed sighting of Asian giant hornet in Washington state

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Asian giant hornet
Photo by Joel Nielsen
UPDATE: The lab has confirmed that this is a queen. This means that no hive was established without a queen.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) reported the first confirmed sighting of an Asian giant hornet (sometimes called "murder hornets" in Washington this year.

On May 27, a resident near Custer, Whatcom county, Washington found the dead specimen while walking on a roadway. The resident submitted a photo and report using WSDA’s online Hornet Watch Report Form

On May 28, WSDA entomologists concluded that the photo appeared to show an Asian giant hornet.  This was confirmed May 29 after laboratory testing.

The hornet was detected near the location of a suspected Asian giant hornet bee kill in 2019. WSDA had already planned trapping in the area and will maintain that plan to try to find any colony that may be there.

"At this time, there is no evidence that Asian giant hornets are established in Washington State or anywhere else in the United States,” according to Osama El-Lissy, Deputy Administrator, for USDA/APHIS’ Plant Protection and Quarantine program.

The first find of the year in the United States comes just days after the British Columbia government confirmed their first detection of the year in Canada near Langley, B.C. That specimen was initially reported to authorities on May 15.

Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest hornet and a predator of honey bees and other insects. A small group of Asian giant hornets can kill an entire honey bee hive in a matter of hours.

WSDA received the first report of Asian giant hornet last December from a resident near Blaine and later learned of another specimen in the area which Washington State University had collected. These were the first-ever confirmed sightings of Asian giant hornet in the United States.

Since the specimens were confirmed in Washington late last year, state entomologists have been working with USDA to create trapping and eradication plans for this 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,” Sven Spichiger, managing entomologist for WSDA’s Pest Program, said. “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.”

WSDA plans to locate these hornets through trapping and public reporting of Asian giant hornet sightings.

WSDA has also provided trapping instructions for citizen scientists who would like to build and place traps starting in July for Asian giant hornets on their property and report the results to WSDA. Commercially available hornet and wasp traps will not catch Asian giant hornets as the holes are too small for Asian giant hornets to enter the traps.

Although not typically aggressive toward humans, Asian giant hornets do pose a human health threat. Their 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 for Asian giant hornets.

Learn more about Asian giant hornets and the state’s trapping and eradication project here.


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