WSDA confirms state’s first Asian giant hornet sighting this year

WSDA confirms state’s first Asian giant hornet sighting this year
(Washington State Department of Agriculture)

CUSTER, Wash. — It’s official – the Asian giant hornet has reappeared in Washington state this year. A dead hornet, believed to be a queen, was found just north of Custer, Washington, this week.

The hornet is getting a lot of attention in Washington state after it was spotted for the first time late in 2019. It’s an abnormally large hornet that’s capable of killing off entire honeybee hives in a matter of hours. In rare cases, these hornets are capable of killing small animals, even humans, with multiple stings.

There are two possibilities that are being explored after this latest confirmed sighting. Either the Asian giant hornet survived winter in Washington state, or another was accidentally reintroduced to the area.

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Experts with the Washington State Department of Agriculture believe it’s more likely that the hornet survived the winter, which is an issue because the Pacific Northwest is considered a suitable habitat for the invasive species.

This reveals a good news, bad news situation: If the hornet that was found is, in fact, a queen, the nest may die off. However, there’s a concern because a single hive can produce between 200-300 queens, which would allow the Asian giant hornet to populate the state.

“It may mean there are more in our area,” said Sven-Erik Spichiger, managing entomologist for WSDA. “Fortunately, this is an area that we had already gridded out for intensive survey.”

Beginning in July, WSDA has plans to begin a program of tracking and tracing the hornet.

WSDA will be putting traps into targeted areas where it is concerned the hornets may have nested.The department worked with counterparts in Asia – where the hornets originate from – to devise plans to capture hornets. The next goal will be to use new technology so that the hornets can be released and tracked back to hives for the state to eradicate.

Researchers are imploring the public to report potential sightings online using the state’s reporting tools, which can be found here.

The latest finding was spotted by what the WSDA referred to as an “eagle-eyed walker,” who stumbled onto the dead hornet in the middle of a road. Entomologists were deployed to collect a sample within 24 hours and are now looking to learn more about the latest confirmed Asian giant hornet.