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Birds and Wildlife

Murder Hornets
Polly Adcock
April 2021

As we approach Spring and plant pollinators for our precious bees, we still need to beware of a menace that could be out there. It is the Giant Asian Hornet, Vespa mandarinia a.k.a. Killer Hornet or Murder Hornet. There are no other wasps or hornets in Washington that are 1.5 - 2 inches long! It has a wingspan of three inches, a body marked by yellow or orange and black stripes, and a large yellow or orange head. This thing can kill a human with multiple stings from its quarter inch stinger and strong venom. It can even spray venom into eyes. HOWEVER, it is not considered aggressive UNLESS a nest (likely found in the ground or a tree cavity) is disturbed.

We should all care about the elimination of this predator to our bees. In Europe a similar hornet reduced beehives by 30% and honey yield 66%! Around about July it goes into slaughter mode to feed its young and will raid and plunder beehives by biting off bees' heads and taking their pupae and honey back to its nest. This brutal and costly slaughter goes on through October.

It is thought these invaders arrived by ship in Nanaimo, B.C., flew to a small town, then over to the mainland and down to Whatcom County, USA.

Last year the Washington State Department of Agriculture invited our northern counties, including Clallam, to set traps for the Giant Hornet. “Citizen scientists” were instructed in making bottle traps, where to place them, register them, check, clean and refill them each week for eleven weeks. This is a big help to the Department since members of the group in charge of monitoring Murder Hornets are located in Olympia and many are working from home because of COVID.

Of course, there was the national news story of the nest in Whatcom County. Someone found and captured a hornet on the road. The state tried various tracking devices and succeeded with a RADIO TAG attached with DENTAL FLOSS! Scientists searched the area in which the tagged hornet flew until they found the nest in a tree cavity. They were aided by the hornets' loud buzzing sound.

In their most recent post the WSDA said they were confident that the Murder Hornet is present in no county except Whatcom and that there is a good chance that they will not become a permanent resident. However, State entomologists say they will have to keep up the diligent surveillance.