Officials Caught a Murder Hornet and This Is What it Looks Like Up Close

Washington State Department of Agriculture made a big step in its crusade against the Asian hornets that invaded the state last year. The agency announced that it captured the insect for the first time by using a trap as opposed to catching it out in the wild.

Images of the hornet proved the nature of its true size and, simply put, it's huge—reaching more than two inches in length.

With its distinctive orange and black striped coat, the hornet large head features teardrop-shaped eyes while its body holds broad wings similar to that of a small dragonfly.

Officials Caught a Murder Hornet
A sample specimen of a dead Asian Giant Hornet from Japan, also known as a murder hornet, is shown by a pest biologist from the Washington State Department of Agriculture on July 29, 2020 in Bellingham, Washington. Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Nicknamed the "murder hornet" in its origin country of Japan, the discovery of the giant insect has brought immense concern among wildlife and agriculture officials mostly because of the hornet's penchant for attacking and killing honeybees. There are also fears that the hornet's propensity for attacking humans as well, considering that about 50 people in Japan die from the insect's venomous stinger each year.

So far in Washington, only five murder hornets had been spotted in the state out in the environment. The captured hornet was found in a trap set near Birch Bay in Whatcom County from samples processed on July 29, according to a report released Tuesday. The discovery of the male hornet falls in line with Japanese literature that notes that giant hornet workers appear more commonly in August and September as colonies develop.

The capture of the insect via trap signals a step in the right direction of clearing the pests out before they make a permanent home out of the U.S.

"This is encouraging because it means we know that the traps work," Sven Spichiger, managing entomologist for the department said. "But it also means we have work to do."

Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) officials hoping to find and destroy nests by mid-September before colonies start reproducing queen hornets and drones. Spichiger told Reuters virgin queens—female hornets "capable of creating new nests next year"—until mid-October.

The biggest challenge, though, is finding the nests. The department plans to use infrared cameras to locate nests and with the help of the WSDA Pest Program, develop special trapping systems that can capture hornets but keep them alive. The WSDA hopes to tag any live hornets trapped and track them as they return back to their colonies.

The murder hornets aren't the only foreign species invading the U.S.

Back in June, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services revealed officials discovered specimens of the invasive and disease-carrying Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) in Wayne County. The mosquitos were initially found in Michigan in 2017 but hadn't been spotted again until now, according to reports. They are known for spreading viruses like dengue, chikungunya and Zika.