The Washington State Department of Agriculture announced it has trapped a male Asian giant hornet – the first male of the invasive species to be detected in the United States.
At a news conference late Tuesday, WSDA officials say the hornet was caught in a trap the agency set in a rural area of northwestern Whatcom County in late July. It was found near an area where a dead mated queen hornet was found earlier this year, and where suspected bee kill was found last year. State labs confirmed it was a male late last week.
The Asian hornets, dubbed “murder hornets” for their aggressive nature, are the world’s largest hornet and a predator of honeybees and other insects. They are native to Japan but found their way to the U.S. last year.
A small group of Asian giant hornets can kill an entire honeybee hive in a matter of hours, which is why they are of concern to agriculture officials. More than 1,000 traps have been placed to capture the hornets alive. That would allow entomologists to tag the hornets and hopefully trace them back to their colonies where they could be eradicated.
Adults can be nearly two inches long, and have a distinctly light-orange head with prominent black eyes, a black thorax and a black-and-yellow striped abdomen. Although it is not typically aggressive toward humans, the state’s Agriculture Department says the monster hornet can inflict a powerful sting.
Officials have found a total of seven Asian giant hornets in Washington state, all of them in Whatcom County. In addition to the traps that the WSDA has set to catch Asian giant hornets, citizen scientists and other cooperators have placed more than 1,400 traps throughout the state.
The WSDA will be setting live traps in the area hoping to catch a live Asian giant hornet, tag it, and track it back to its nest. If WSDA can locate a nest, the agency will eradicate it.