The first live 'murder hornets' of 2021 have been spotted in Washington state

The first live 'murder hornets' of 2021 have been spotted in Washington state

The state Department of Agriculture said Thursday that the first live sighting of "killer hornets" in 2021 was reported by a Washington state this week. This is the second time the insect has been seen this year, but it died the first time it was found in June.

A Whatcom County resident reported the Asian giant hornet on Wednesday. Entomologists confirmed the sighting on Thursday. The resident's report included a photo of the hornet attacking a paper wasp nest in a rural area east of Blaine, about two miles from where state employees wiped out the first nest of the Asian giant hornet in the United States last October.

A Whatcom County resident reported the hornet on Wednesday.

Washington State Department of Agriculture

When scientists destroyed this nest, they found about 500 live specimens, including nearly 200 queens, to create their nests. Scientists in the USA and Canada announced new efforts to stem the spread of a species they described as a "grave danger to our health and well-being."

The world's most giant hornet can be deadly to humans at times, but it poses a much more significant threat to honeybees, who depend on it to pollinate crops. They attack and destroy hives within hours and decapitate the bees in what scientists call the "slaughter stage." Although it is suspected that they were traveling on cargo ships, they got here from Asia.

"This wasp exhibits the same behavior we saw last year - attacking paper wasps' nests," said entomologist Sven Spischiger, who is leading the fight against the invaders. "If you have paper wasp nests on your property and live in the area, keep an eye on them and report any Asian giant wasps you see. Note the direction they are flying in as well."

The USDA will place traps in the area to catch live wasps, tag them, and track them back to the nest. The state said the British Columbia government would also set up traps in Canada because the discovery was half a mile from the border.

Officials said viewing the population is critical to their research on invasive species. Last year, half of the confirmed opinions in Washington, all in Canada, came from the public.

In June, state officials announced the year's first report on the giant Asian hornet in a North Seattle town. A dead, dry sample of the lawn was collected in Marysville, Spischiger said.

Because of the wilting condition and the fact that males of giant hornets don't usually appear until July, agriculture officials believe the hornets are likely from an earlier season and were recently discovered.

The 2-inch invasive insects, first found near the US-Canada border in December 2019, are native to Asia and threaten honeybees and native wasp species. 

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