‘Murder Hornet’ Found in Washington State, First One in U.S. for 2021

by Amy Myers

Ready to get chills down your spine? “Murder hornets” might be back for an encore performance.

After a good Samaritan found a suspicious insect in his lawn, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the bug to be one of the infamous “murder hornets” that populated Washington last year. The deceased Asian giant hornet has scientists working on ways to prevent the species’ invasion in the U.S.

Does the ‘Murder Hornet’ Live Up to Its Nickname?

Although its notorious nickname suggests certain lethality to humans, Asian giant hornets are actually more bark than bite (or rather, sting) for people. The insect can grow up to two inches in length (think two half-dollar coins) and has distinct orange bands across its abdomen. Though not the prettiest insect, Asian giant hornets rarely bother humans.

In fact, according to New York Post, the Center for Disease Control reported that murder hornets only account for about a few dozen deaths in Asian countries annually. In the States, bees and hornets in general cause about 62 deaths annually. So, for humans, the hornets may as well be renamed to just “scary-looking hornets.”

Honey Bees Beware

Unfortunately, for honey bees, the nickname holds true.

Asian giant hornets can obliterate entire hives of honeybees. This means if the hornets continue to populate in the U.S., our primary source of pollination for plants could be in danger.

That’s why scientists were so quick to the scene at the most recent sighting in Washington.

The New York Post reports that the carcass of the murder hornet appears to be from the previous season. Dr. Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s quarantine program, stated, “The find is perplexing because it is too early for a male to emerge.”

Preventing a Repeat of 2020 Sightings

Washington’s agricultural department is now taking precautionary measures in Snohomish and King Counties where the specimen was found. Entomologists will be setting up traps to catch the hornets and prevent future invasion. As they witnessed last October, containment is crucial in stopping the spread of the murder hornets.

Roughly two hours north of the most recent report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gathered at the sight of an Asian giant hornet nest, equipped in unusual, almost sci-fi-like suits. According to the New York Post’s previous coverage, Adorned with red lights, the crew worked quickly to vacuum out hundreds of hornets, including nearly 200 queens. Of those 200, 76 queens were viable to leave the current location and begin a nest of their own. Thankfully, the team of experts was able to resolve the safely and securely.

With the astonishing rate of last year’s recovery, it’s no wonder Washington’s agricultural department takes every new sighting seriously. Although the recent specimen was found dead, it’s possible other hornets, and even hives, exist in the surrounding counties.

The key to population control is reporting sightings and taking action early.