Agriculture officials have captured their first Asian giant hornet this month in Washington State – and are in a race against the clock to find the rest before mating season starts.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture revealed in a press release that the Asian giant hornet, nicknamed ‘murder hornet’, was trapped on July 14.
Officials set up bottle trap near Birch Bay in Whatcom County and, following a review at WSDA’s entomology lab, confirmed the hornet’s species on July 29.
This is the first hornet detected in a set trap, rather than found in the environment like the last five confirmed sightings in Washington.
‘This is encouraging because it means we know that the traps work,’ Sven Spichiger, managing entomologist for the department. said in the press release.
‘But it also means we have work to do.’
Now, agriculture officials have just two months to locate the rest of the invasive species and remove them from Washington before mating season.
The department said that by mid-September the Asian giant hornet colony will begin reproducing new queens and drones.
‘Destroying the nest before new queens emerge and mate will prevent the spread of this invasive pest,’ the department said.
The WSDA said they will search for Asian giant hornets with infrared cameras and place extra traps to capture the insect alive.
‘If they catch live hornets, the department will attempt to tag and track them back to their colony. Once located, the agency will eradicate the colony,’ the department said.
WSDA added that in addition to the traps set up by the department, citizen scientists and others have placed more than 1,300 traps throughout the state.
‘If it becomes established, this hornet will have negative impacts on the environment, economy, and public health of Washington State,’ the department website read.
The Asian giant hornet first arrived to the United States last year when there were two confirmed sightings near Blaine, Washington.
Asian hornets have a dark brown or black velvety body, have a yellow or orange band on the fourth segment of the abdomen and have yellow-tipped legs. They are typically around two inches long.
Asian giant hornets are more than double the size of honeybees, and have a wingspan measuring more than three inches.
The species got their nickname ‘murder hornet’ because of their potentially deadly stings and aggressive attacks on prey.
The hornet has a large stinger filled with venom that contains neurotoxin, which is capable of causing both cardiac arrest and anaphylactic shock.
Beekeeper Conrad Bérubé told The New York Times he was recently attacked by a swarm of the ‘murder hornets’ on Vancouver Island.
‘It was like having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh,’ Bérubé stated, adding that he was left bleeding from the attack.
Bérubé was stung seven times and was lucky to be alive.
But while the hornets can be deadly to humans, entomologists are more concerned that they could kill off bee populations in North America.
The WSDA said that Asian giant hornets attack and destroy hives- sometimes in a matter of hours.
‘The hornets enter a “slaughter phase” where they kill bees by decapitating them. They then defend the hive as their own, taking the brood to feed their own young,’ the department said.
The bee population has been on a concerning decline for years and their eradication could have detrimental affects on the environment.
A survey by the U.S. National Agriculture Statistics Services showed that the population declined from six million hives in 1947 to 2.4 million hives in 2008, a 60 per cent reduction.