Asian Giant Hornets That Eat Honeybees and Have 'Powerful Sting' Discovered in Washington for First Time

Officials in Washington have advised people to take precautions after an Asian giant hornet was found in the state for the first time.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) said a resident in the city of Blaine, near the border with Canada, spotted an "unusually large" hornet on their property on December 8. The individual alerted the WSDA, and said they had also seen a live giant hornet at a hummingbird feeder, before it headed into a forest.

Officials visited the property and took the huge bug away. It was later confirmed as an invasive Asian giant hornet.

WSDA and Washington State Department of Health (DOH) officials asked members of the public in the area "to be on the lookout for and take precautions to avoid contact with these large bugs."

"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," the WSDA stated. "Though they are typically not interested in humans, pets or large animals, they can inflict a nasty sting if threatened or their nest is disturbed."

"People should avoid swatting at the hornets, which may cause these insects to sting," the WSDA warned.

Residents should cover their food and drink outdoors, and throw out trash correctly.

The insects, which generally grow up to an inch and a half long and build their nests in the ground, are characterized by their large yellow heads. Adults can grow up to two inches long. They are most active between July and October, and are generally dormant during the winter months.

In order to prevent swelling, those who are stung should wash the affected area with soap and water, and apply a cold compress, according to the DOH. The symptoms of a bite can also be treated with antihistamines or anti-itch creams if needed.

"If you are stung multiple times or have symptoms of a severe reaction following a sting, call 911 or seek medical care immediately," the DOH said.

asian giant hornet, washington state, WSDA
An image released by the WSDA shows a person holding an Asian giant hornet between then fingertips. WSDA

Next year the WSDA plans to set up traps in Blaine to monitor the bugs.

Members of the public who spot an Asian giant hornet are asked to report it to the WSDA Pest Program, with a photo if possible, by emailing pestprogram@agr.wa.gov.

In August, officials in Canada issues a pest alert and destroyed a large colony of Asian giant hornets after they were found in British Columbia for the first time, according to the WSDA. The bugs were spotted in the Nanaimo area on Vancouver Island in mid-August, the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture said.

At the time, the body said the insects could be mistaken for bald-faced hornets, yellow jackets, horntail wasps and elm sawflies. Sightings of those bugs don't need to be reported, they said.

Asian Giant Hornets That Eat Honeybees and Have 'Powerful Sting' Discovered in Washington for First Time | Tech & Science