11 stats on Washington’s problematic so-called ‘murder hornets’

A nest found last week was home to approximately 1,500 hornets.

 

WSDA staff eradicate the first Asian giant hornet nest of the year. The nest housed approximately 1,500 hornets.
Karla Salp/Washington State Department of Agriculture

Clad in protective white suits and thick gloves, Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) staff eradicated the first Asian giant hornet nest of the year last week in the northwestern part of the state. 

The Asian giant hornet, colloquially known as “the murder hornet,” is the largest of its kind in the world and is notorious for its decimation of honeybee hives. In the Pacific Northwest, the first confirmed sighting of the hornet (scientific name: Vespa Mandarinia) came in December 2019. At the time, the WSDA created a public hotline for reported sightings and received thousands of tips, leading to the extermination of the first nest found in the state in 2020, which contained over 500 hornets. But the species persisted, and the nest found last week was home to approximately 1,500 hornets.

The WSDA’s recent effort was successful thanks to a resident who spotted an Asian giant hornet attacking paper wasp nests on their property, snapped a picture and sent it to the department. Once the sighting was confirmed by the WSDA, agents were able to capture live hornets in the area and affix radio tags to three of them with a piece of kevlar thread. One eventually led them back to the nest.

The average Asian giant hornet is 1.75 inches long.
Karla Salp/Washington State Department of Agriculture

Below, a few numbers that give a sense of just how pesky and expensive the Asian giant hornet problem is for the West:

1.75
Average size, in inches, of an Asian giant hornet. 

774
Number of traps set by the Washington State Department of Agriculture in 2021 as of Aug. 30.

712
Number of traps set by citizen scientists in 2021 as of Aug. 30.

2
Nests found in the United States, both in Washington, since the hornets were first discovered in North America in 2019. 

The nest found last week contained nine layers of comb.
Karla Salp/Washington State Department of Agriculture

2,111
Approximate number of reported sightings of Asian giant hornets in 2021.

3
Number of sightings verified to be Asian giant hornets in 2021. 

34
Confirmed number of all-time sightings in the state. 

200
Approximate number of queens — which are especially meddlesome as they eventually leave and form new colonies — found in a nest in 2020.

20,000,000
Amount in dollars requested for the Murder Hornet Eradication Pilot Program in the federal stimulus package.

170
Price, in dollars, for the beekeeping suit used by WSDA agents in the eradication efforts. 

7,991
Number of people in the official Asian giant hornet watch Facebook group.

Jessica Kutz is an assistant editor for High Country News. We welcome reader letters. Email her at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editorSee our letters to the editor policy.

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