Asian giant hornet

A dead Asian giant hornet was found May 27 near Custer in Northwest Washington, indicating the honey bee-killing stinging wasp can survive Northwest winters.

An Asian giant hornet was found May 27 in Whatcom County, the state Department of Agriculture confirmed May 29, indicating the honey bee-killing wasp can survive Northwest winters, a state entomologist said.

The queen hornet was found dead on a driveway near the Canadian border. It was about 2 miles south of where the first Asian giant hornet ever detected in the U.S. was found in December. It was also about 1 mile north of a beehive suspected to have been killed by giant hornets.

An Asian giant hornet found across the border in Langley, British Columbia, was reported to Canadian authorities May 15.

“It’s disappointing to know they can make it through the winter,” Washington agriculture department entomologist Sven Spichiger said. “We will probably find a few nests in the area.”

The Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest, too big to fit in standard-sized wasp traps. The hornet decapitates honey bees and can quickly wipe out a hive. The hornets may have landed in the U.S. as stowaways on ships.

Spichiger said the department plans an aggressive eradication campaign to keep the hornet from becoming established. The department already had planned for an extensive trapping campaign in the area, beginning in July as work hornets emerge, he said. “It is not unexpected that we found something in this area.”

The discovery of a hornet last winter in the U.S. inspired a rash of stories about the “murder hornet.” Spichiger said that was sensationalistic, but did say beekeepers have reasons to be concerned. The hornet also eats native insects, he said.

“It could disrupt our ecosystem slightly by adding this predator to the mix,” Spichiger said.

The man who spotted the hornet took a photo and sent it to the department. A state entomologist picked up the specimen the next day. State and USDA laboratories confirmed it was an Asian giant hornet.

Spichiger called it a “victory” that the queen hornet didn’t have a chance to start a colony. Initial reports were that the hornet was hit by a slow-moving vehicle, but the reason the hornet died is unknown, he said.

Spichiger said he hoped others would be alert and report sightings and preserve dead specimens for entomologists to examine. “We are not recommending anyone tangle with a live hornet,” he said.

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