A new threat is emerging as Asian giant hornets – known as “murder hornets” due to their lethal sting to humans – are gaining a foothold in the country.
After they were first found in Washington State in May this year, the 2-inch (5cm)-long hornets have now been trapped for the first time – giving officials an indication – firstly that their traps work, and secondly of where nests could be situated.
Now authorities in Washington State have until mid-September to try and eradicate the invasive species before the breeding season begins.
Multiple stings are deadly to humans and in Asia the hornets are estimated to kill 50 people a year.
Honey bee populations in the US have declined by 60 per cent since the mid 20th century, largely due to habitat loss and use of pesticides, according to Greenpeace USA.It is not known how the species arrived in North America, but they were first documented late last year, and since then there have been four more sightings – all of the insects in the wild.Normally Asian giant hornets live in the forests and mountains of south and southeast Asian countries.This is the first time one of the hornets has been successfully trapped in the US.
Washington State Department for Agriculture workers found the hornet on 14 July in a bottle trap set north of Seattle near the Canadian border, and state entomologists confirmed its identity on Wednesday 29 July.
“This is encouraging because it means we know that the traps work,” Sven Spichiger, managing entomologist for the department said in a press statement.