The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has received and confirmed four reports of Asian giant hornets in the areas of Blaine and Bellingham, WSDA said in a January 13 brief posted online.
Last month, WSDA entomologists identified a large hornet found near the Canadian border as an Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), an invasive species not previously found in Washington state. On December 8, a Blaine resident had reported an unusually large hornet they found on their property. Two days later, WSDA visited the site, collected the specimen, which was dead, and confirmed its identity a short time later. The resident also reported seeing a live giant hornet at a hummingbird feeder before it retreated into a nearby forest.
“Although it is not typically aggressive toward humans, this unwelcome pest can inflict a powerful sting and also represents a threat to honeybees, for which they have a voracious appetite,” WSDA said in a December brief reporting the Blaine discovery.
According to WSDA, invasive Asian giant hornets are typically almost an inch and a half long and are distinguished by their large yellow heads. They nest in the ground, and although they are typically not interested in humans, pets or large animals, they can inflict a “nasty” sting if threatened or if their nest is disturbed. “Asian giant hornet stings – especially repeated stings – can require medical attention, even in those who are not normally allergic to bee or wasp stings,” said a WSDA brief. “Several hornet-related deaths occur each year where they are native in Asia.”
According to Washington’s health department, people can take preventative measures outdoors by keeping food and drink covered or under screens, and by cleaning up and disposing of food and garbage properly. People should avoid swatting at the hornets, which may cause these insects to sting.
“If you are stung, DOH recommends washing the site thoroughly with soap and water and applying ice or a cold compress to reduce swelling,” said WSDA. “The agency also recommends an antihistamine or use of an anti-itch cream to reduce itching if necessary. If you are stung multiple times or have symptoms of a severe reaction following a sting, call 911 or seek medical care immediately.”
WSDA will be setting traps in the Blaine area to monitor for Asian giant hornets. If you think you may have spotted an Asian giant hornet, report it to WSDA’s pest program at firstname.lastname@example.org and, if possible, include a photo. More information is available online at WSDA’s blog, wastatedeptag.blogspot.com.