SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Scientists discovered a dead Asian giant hornet north of Seattle
on Wednesday, the first so-called murder hornet
found in the United States
this year, according to federal and state investigators.
Entomologists from the state and federal agriculture departments said it is the first confirmed report from Snohomish County, north of Seattle, and appears to be unrelated to the hornets discovered in Canada
and Whatcom County, near the Canadian border
, in 2019 and 2020, which drew widespread attention.
The 2-inch-long (5-centimeter-long) invasive insects, discovered near the U.S.-Canadian border in December 2019, are native to Asia and pose
a threat to honeybees and native hornet species. Their sting is extremely painful, and repeated stings, while rare, can kill.
The world's largest hornet poses a much greater threat to honeybees, which are used to pollinate crops; they attack
hives, destroying them in hours and decapitating bees in what scientists call their "slaughter phase." It is unclear how they arrived from Asia.
In the most recent sighting, a resident discovered a dead hornet near the city of Marysville and reported it to the state Department of Agriculture on June 4. Entomologists contacted the person on June 7, then retrieved the dead hornet the next day, which was found to be a male hornet that had become very dried out.
Given the time of year, the fact that it was a male, and the specimen's extreme dryness, entomologists believe it was an old hornet from a previous season that was not discovered until now, as new males don't usually emerge until at least July.
According to state officials, there is no clear path for the hornet to take to Marysville.
“The discovery is puzzling because it is too early for a male to emerge,” said Dr. Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator of the USDA
’s quarantine program.
El-Lissy stated that the federal agency would collaborate with state officials to “survey the area to confirm whether a population exists in Snohomish County.”
The hornet was submitted to the federal Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service for final verification because it was found for the first time in that county and had different coloring than previously collected specimens in North America
Entomologists confirmed it was an Asian giant hornet on June 11, and DNA testing revealed that the specimen was unrelated to the hornet introductions in Whatcom County or Canada.
“This new report emphasizes the importance of public reporting for all suspected invasive species, especially Asian giant hornets,” said Sven Spichiger, a state Agriculture Department entomologist who is leading the fight to eradicate the hornets.
“We will now be setting traps in the area and encouraging citizen scientists to trap in Snohomish and King counties,” Spichiger said, adding that “none of this would have happened if an alert resident had not taken the time to snap a photo and submit a report.”
According to officials, half of the confirmed Asian giant hornet sightings in Washington and all confirmed sightings in Canada in 2020 came from the public.
The USDA has added giant hornets to the list of quarantine pests, providing Washington State
with additional tools to help eradicate the invasive species.