No ‘murder hornets’ found in Washington state for 1st year since 2019

Sven Spichiger, Washington State Department of Agriculture managing entomologist, walks with a canister of Asian giant hornets vacuumed from a nest in a tree behind him Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Officials in the State of Washington say they’re making gains in the battle against an invasive species of hornets known to slaughter local bee populations.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) pest program did not trap or confirm any northern giant hornets (nicknamed ‘murder hornets’ and formally known as Vespa Mandarina) this year, the first time they haven’t been detected since 2019.

Despite the progress, the WSDA said the insects aren’t yet considered eradicated. U.S. regulations require the state to go three years without finding them to make that declaration.

The notorious hornets were first spotted in North America in 2019 near Nanaimo, B.C.

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They were first confirmed in Washington state in December 2019. In 2020, WSDA specialists found and destroyed the first known northern giant hornet nest in the U.S., and destroyed three more nests the following year.

Click to play video: 'Season 2 of podcast ‘What happened to…?’ launches with episode on murder hornets'
Season 2 of podcast ‘What happened to…?’ launches with episode on murder hornets

All of the nests were in the area east of Blaine, Wash., just minutes south of the British Columbia border crossing. The Invasive Species Council of B.C. told Global News it received some false reports in the last two years, but that none of the insects were confirmed in B.C. in 2021 or 2022.

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In their efforts to eradicate the hornets, the WSDA went high-tech, trapping live specimens and fitting them with trackers that they then used to follow the insects back to their nests.

The invasive insects — formerly known as the Asian giant hornet — are usually found in China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam and other countries in Asia, and have not been confirmed anywhere else in North America.

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Conservationists and agriculture officials are particularly worried about them because they are known to attack and destroyed honey bee hives.

The hornets can grow as large as five centimetres in length, and a small group of them are capable of destroying a bee hive in a matter of hours.

While they are not considered particularly dangerous to humans, the Invasive Species Council of B.C. warns they are capable of delivering painful stings and are a threat to people allergic to bees and wasps.

Anyone who spots one of the hornets in B.C. is urged to report it to the Invasive Species Council at 1-888-933-3722 or on their website.


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