After months without hearing any mention of the chilling phrase murder hornet, you may be wondering if the creature existed only in some half-forgotten nightmare from last year.
Unfortunately, murder hornets are real, and there’s at least one buzzing around Washington as you read this. As Gizmodo reports, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) recently announced that a murder hornet—the first living specimen seen in 2021—was spotted near a paper wasp nest outside Blaine, Washington, on August 11.
It’s not the first time murder hornets, or Asian giant hornets—so named because they’re native to Japan, China, and other parts of Asia—have shown up in the area. They first appeared in Washington in December 2019, and in October 2020, the WSDA got rid of a nest just two miles from this latest sighting. “This hornet is exhibiting the same behavior we saw last year—attacking paper wasp nests,” WSDA managing entomologist Sven Spichiger said in a news release. “If you have paper wasp nests on your property and live in the area, keep an eye on them and report any Asian giant hornets you see. Note the direction they fly off to as well.”
WSDA workers are now focused on trapping a live hornet and letting it lead them to its nest, so they can launch another eradication mission. Murder hornets live up to their homicidal moniker, and they can kill you if you sustain multiple stings. But their main target is honeybees: It only takes a few hornets to decimate an entire beehive within hours, which they do by ripping the heads off the bees (and then flying the bees’ bodies back to their nests, where they’re eaten by baby hornets).