First live sighting of ‘murder hornet’ this year in Washington state

The Asian hornet first arrived in the US in December 2019

Kelsie Sandoval
New York
Friday 13 August 2021 19:52 BST
First 'murder hornet' trapped in the US

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The first “live” murder hornet has been sighted in Washington, officials have confirmed.

The state department of agriculture said the sighting occurred in Whatcom County on Wednesday.

Officials in both Washington state and British Columbia, the province over the border in Canada, are setting traps to catch the murder hornet, tag it, and track it back to its nest.

“Murder hornets” are officially called Asian hornets but get their nickname due to how they treat their prey.

The insect’s sharp appendages can decimate a honeybee hive in hours and the insects pull out bees’  thoraxes to feed their young.

Loss of honeybees is a serious threat because bees play an important role in the environment by pollinating food crops and wild plants. And the bees haven’t evolved to defend themselves against the hornet.

At the time of the sighting in the US this week, the hornet was attacking paper wasp nests.

“This hornet is exhibiting the same behavior we saw last year – attacking paper wasp nests,” Washington State Department of Agriculture Managing Entomologist Sven Spichiger, said in a statement.

Mr Spichiger asked people in the area to be on the lookout for the Asian hornet, particularly which direction they fly.

There was a previous sighting of the Asian hornet in Seattle earlier this year but the insect was dead.

Native to East Asia, the Asian hornet first arrived in the US in December 2019 after being spotted near Vancouver Island, Canada four months earlier. It’s unclear how the hornet got to North America but it created much cause for alarm.

Multiple murder hornet stings can kill people and animals so authorities in Washington worked hard to eradicate the species two years ago to prevent it from breeding.

The live hornet was spotted this week two miles away from where a hornet nest was destroyed last October, the first discovered in the US.

The Asian hornet kills between 12 to 26 people per year. Hornet, wasp, and bee stings kill in total an average of 62 people per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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