An enormous, invasive hornet that can destroy honeybee hives in “a matter of hours” was found in Northwestern Washington in December, and the state Department of Agriculture is urging residents and beekeepers to report sightings.
Like something out of a horror movie, the 1.5- to 2-inch-long Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarina) kills bees by decapitating them and then takes over the hive so that the hornets can use it to feed their own young, according to an alert from the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
“If it becomes established, this hornet will have serious negative impacts on the environment, economy and human health in Washington state,” the agency states on its website. Although not typically aggressive, the hornet packs a powerful venom and long stinger, so people should use extreme caution. Beekeepers’ protective clothing is not sufficiently protective.
Four reports of the hornet were verified near Bellingham and the Canadian border, while several reports were made in British Columbia last fall, as well.
The hornets nest in the ground in large colonies, which may be hard to see, but the impact on a hive is obvious: piles of dead, headless bees.
If you see one of these formidable hornets, report it online at agr.wa.gov/hornets or call 1-800-443-6684. Distinguishing features include the size, large orange head with prominent eyes and a black-and-yellow-striped abdomen.
—by Kate Prengaman