BIRCH BAY, Wash. (KOMO) — Officials in Whatcom County, Washington State said Friday that two Asian giant hornets have turned up in recent days, one of them captured in a trap and another one that startled diners when it flew up at a Birch Bay restaurant.
The most recent sightings of the insects, known as the murder hornet, add to the growing number of observations in which the giant bug seems to be gaining a foothold in Washington state. That worries scientists and researchers because of the devastating affects the murder hornets can have on local honey bee populations and other insect colonies.
Authorities in Whatcom County said in a written statement that officials from the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were setting experimental traps in the Birch Bay area on Aug. 19 when they came across a trap left by a local beekeeper.
Inside, they found a dead worker Asian giant hornet, which was much smaller than previous specimens found so far, underscoring the fact that Asian giant hornets can range in size from 1.5 inches -- or less -- to 2 inches.
"This is a good reminder for those checking traps to keep their eyes open for smaller specimens, too," the county said.
County officials said someone posted a picture on Facebook of an Asian giant hornet that was taken at a Birch Bay restaurant on Aug. 18. The patrons were dining outside when the Asian giant hornet flew up. A restaurant guest was able to take a photograph of the hornet before it flew off without being captured.
Authorities did not identify the name of the restaurant where the incident occurred.
The Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest hornet and a predator of honey bees and other insects. A small group of Asian giant hornets can wipe out an entire honey bee hive in a matter of hours.
More than 1,000 traps have been placed in an attempt to trap the hornets alive. That would allow entomologists to tag the hornets and hopefully trace them back to their colonies where they could be eradicated.
Adults can be nearly two inches long, have a distinctly light-orange head with prominent black eyes, a black thorax and a black-and-yellow striped abdomen. Although it is not typically aggressive toward humans, the state Department of Agriculture says this monster hornet can inflict a powerful sting.
Asian giant hornets nest in the ground. They are typically dormant over the winter, and are most often seen from July through October. The first one in Washington was reported on Dec. 8 in Blaine.