Murder Hornets Found in Washington State

The Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia.

Their queens can grow to be two inches long and their quarter-inch stingers can pierce normal beekeeping attire. They live underground in forested areas and tend not to target humans.

As of May 2020, murder hornets have only been found on Vancouver Island and in Washington State. There had been no sightings in Oregon as of that time.

Helmuth Rogg with the Oregon Department of Agriculture affirmed the current status, stating “the Asian giant hornet is NOT known to occur in Oregon. We have not seen any evidence or have received any images or specimens that confirm their presence here in Oregon.” (May 12, 2020)

History in the Northwest

When a bee keeper in Washington State discovered a bee hive that had been attacked, officials began an aggressive search. One nest was discovered and destroyed. A single specimen of giant hornet was also discovered in Vancouver, Canada which was determined to be from a different nest. No additional sightings have occurred since 2019 and it appears that for now, the Asian giant hornet is not established in the U.S.

Typical Behavior

Murder hornets destroy honeybee populations and can sting humans in the process – an injury that is generally among the most painful stings in the world. The stings can be fatal to humans if they are swarmed and stung by many hornets at once. Murder hornets kill many kinds of insects but specialize on social bees that live in colonies. The Asian giant hornet is aggressive when it feels its nest is threatened, but it is not more aggressive than other social wasps. Thirty giant hornets can kill 30,000 domestic bees.

Future Issues

The natural spread of the hornet across the U.S. would likely occur over a span of many years. Beekeepers and others are currently mobilizing to try to prevent that from happening.

Whenever a species establishes outside of its native range, it often leaves behind the natural checks like disease, predators, and other factors that limit its population. When a species establishes, it can cause big effects to the ecosystem and to the economy that relies in part on the ecosystem.

WSDA urges people to stay away from any suspected hives and to report potential sightings.

Sources & Experts

  • Quinn S. McFrederick, head of the McFrederick Lab, University of California at Riverside

  • Ngoc Phan, Ph.D. candidate, Penn State Department of Entomology

  • Michael J. Raupp, professor emeritus of entomology, University of Maryland

  • Michael Skvarla, assistant research professor of arthropod identification, Penn State department of entomology

  • US Riverside College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences: Murder hornets in the U.S. are dangerous, but entomologists say don’t panic, By JR Thorpe | Bustle | May 05, 2020: https://cnas.ucr.edu/media/2020/05/05/murder-hornets-us-are-dangerous-entomologists-say-dont-panic

  • Monday, May 11, 2020: MEDIA CONTACT: Mack Burke | Editorial Coordinator | 405.744.5540 | mack.burke_iv@okstate.edu, https://news.okstate.edu/articles/communications/2020/osu_professor_sheds_light_on_murder_hornets.html

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