Just as the whole “murder hornet” hysteria was starting to die down, a sighting of an Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) carcass was reported on a roadway near Custer, Wash. The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) collected the specimen and confirmed it was indeed the statuesque species on May 29.
According to a WSDA news release:
The hornet was detected near the location of a suspected Asian giant hornet bee kill in 2019. WSDA had already planned trapping in the area and will maintain that plan to try to find any colony that may be there…
WSDA plans to locate these hornets through trapping and public reporting of Asian giant hornet sightings. Members of the Mt. Baker Beekeeper Association have also partnered with WSDA to place experimental traps.
WSDA has also provided trapping instructions for citizen scientists who would like to build and place traps starting in July for Asian giant hornets on their property and report the results to WSDA. Commercially available hornet and wasp traps will not catch Asian giant hornets as the holes are too small for Asian giant hornets to enter the traps.
Although not typically aggressive toward humans, Asian giant hornets do pose a human health threat. Their string is more dangerous than that of local bees and wasps and can cause severe pain, swelling, necrosis, and, in rare cases, even death. Anyone who is allergic to bee or wasp stings should not approach or attempt to trap for Asian giant hornets.
This morning, we learned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed that the specimen was a mated queen. As WSDA Public Engagement Specialist Karla Salp noted in an email about the announcement, “If she started a nest, it will not survive without her. This is effectively one colony down for 2020!”
When we reported on the WSDA’s project back on April 29, we had no idea that the topic itself would blow up in popular culture just a few days later. We thought it was simply another trapping and eradication project for an invasive species. But the fact that these hornets are so massive in size struck a chord with the public’s collective imagination, and soon the media had a field day with speculation. As a result, wildlife departments nowhere near where a hornet specimen turned up in December were inundated with calls about how citizens were “certain” they had “murder hornets,” when in reality it often turned out to merely be European hornets (V. crabro), for example.
Perhaps you had to educate a client or three, as well. If you want to stay on top of the WSDA’s latest news and factual information to pass along to customers — and employees, for that matter — visit Agr.wa.gov/hornets.
As the National Pest Management Association’s Dr. Jim Fredericks notes in his “Callback Cures” column in our June issue, the silver lining to all this has been renewed awareness of the importance of calling a professional for stinging insect management and prevention. We’ll continue to watch with interest whether the WSDA receives more sightings of V. mandarinia, but in the meantime there are plenty of other stinging pests that will be keeping our industry abuzz this season.