Washington warns of invasive giant hornets

Kapp Kvew News Staff

You might see a hornet the size of a matchbox flying around Washington this summer – and that’s got state experts buzzing about the risk to honeybees.

The Asian giant hornet was first spotted in North America last year. Individual hornets grow between 1.5”-2” long, and in some cases have been known to kill humans.

But it’s not their size that concerns beekeepers. Asian giant hornets eat other insects, particularly honeybees. In the late summer or early fall, they will track down beehives and massacre the adult honeybees.

“They’re really good at coordinating these attacks,” explains Professor Todd Murray, the Director of WSU’s Agriculture and Natural Resources extension. “Our honeybees are pretty much defenseless against this hornet.”

Each Asian giant hornet can only fly a couple of miles from its nest, so researchers aren’t sure how they got from Asia to North America – although the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Chris McGann says cargo shipments might be to blame.

“All it takes is one little hibernating queen hiding in some ballast…who can survive the journey, and she can conceivably start a colony here in North America.”

So far, there are only two confirmed Asian giant hornet sightings in the United States – both of them in Washington. WSDA says someone living in Western Washington, near the Canadian border, spotted an unusually large wasp on their property, and alerted the state last winter.

WSDA is now asking everyone to employ that kind of vigilance, and watch for these giant, golden-headed hornets. Their size should make them easy to spot.

“You won’t confuse these with anything else.” Murray says.

You can report possible hornet sightings on the WSDA website.