Agriculture officials have confirmed the first report of a murder hornet in the United States for 2021.
The hornets, whose real name is the Asian giant hornet, were spotted for the first time in the US near Blaine, Washington back in December of 2019. Since then, the large insects have been spotted in various areas of Washington State, as well as parts of British Columbia.
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This recent specimen was found deceased by a local resident near Marysville, a city in Snohomish County, Washington. The resident reported the sighting on Friday, June 4 and the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) retrieved the hornet several days later.
On June 11, entomologists from the WSDA and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed that the specimen was indeed a murder hornet. It appears to be unrelated to the hornets found in Whatcom County and parts of British Columbia.
“Given the time of year, that it was a male, and that the specimen was exceptionally dry, entomologists believe that the specimen is an old hornet from a previous season that wasn’t discovered until now,” the WSDA says in a release.
“New males usually don’t emerge until at least July. There is no obvious pathway for how the hornet got to Marysville.”
What you need to know about murder hornets
Murder hornets attack and destroy honeybee hives and are not known to impact entire populations of other insects.
According to the WSDA, “a few hornets can destroy a hive 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.”
So while you’re not likely to see Asian giant hornets themselves, you may see the aftermath of an attack: piles of dead bees, most of them headless.
While the giant hornets aren’t known to deliberately attack humans, they may do so if a nest is disturbed. The hornets will attack with painful stings, which can be hazardous to your health. If you are stung, reduce inflammation and the spread of the venom by placing an ice cube or cold compact on the affected area. Do not rub the site of the sting; doing so will promote the venom to flow to surrounding tissues.
Those who are stung multiple times (10 or more) are more susceptible to developing a toxic or allergic reaction, including lightheadedness or dizziness, and must immediately seek medical attention.