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The first male Asian giant hornet ever detected in the United States was recently captured in Washington State, authorities announced Monday.
Scarily nicknamed “murder hornets,” the Asian giant hornet, the world’s largest at 2 inches, can destroy entire hives of honeybees and deliver a painful sting to humans. Farmers in the Northwest depend on those honeybees to pollinate many crops such as apples, blueberries and cherries.
The hornet was caught in an Asian giant hornet bottle trap near Custer, Washington, where a mated queen was found dead this year and a suspected bee kill was reported in 2019. The trap was collected July 29 and processed in the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s entomology lab Aug. 13.
“Trapping a male Asian giant hornet in July initially came as a surprise,” Sven Spichiger, the WSDA’s managing entomologist said in a statement. “But further examination of the research and consultation with international experts confirmed that a few males can indeed emerge early in the season.”
This spring, the WSDA started hunting for Asian giant hornets after two confirmed sightings of the predator.
The latest brings to seven the number of Asian giant hornets found in Washington state since 2019, the Bellingham (Wash.) Herald said.
“All seven were found in Whatcom County and represent the first sightings not only for the state but also the U.S,” the Herald said.
Because Asian giant hornet workers increase as a colony develops, they are most likely seen in August and September.
The invasive insect was first documented in Washington late last year. Officials have said it’s not known how the insect arrived in North America. It normally lives in the forests and low mountains of eastern and southeast Asia.
The Bellingham Herald said the species is also known as the Japanese hornet, yak-killer hornet, the giant sparrow bee and popularly as “murder hornets” after a New York Times article.
And while officials are concerned, especially for local honeybee populations, the danger to the average person is low at this time, Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologist Chris Looney confirmed to USA TODAY this year.