You don't want to get stung by one of these. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Thomas Brown
An invasive species of giant hornet has the potential to devastate honey bee populations, experts have warned.
More commonly known as the Asian giant hornet, these huge wasp-like insects have already proven a problematic invasive species in Europe and now it looks as though they have arrived in the US as well.
According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, there have been two reports of the insects near Blaine as well as additional unconfirmed reports from sites in the Custer area.
Measuring 1.8 inches long and with a venomous stinger quarter-of-an-inch in length, the Asian giant hornet can actually prove lethal to humans and is responsible for up to 50 deaths a year in Japan.
In addition, these predatory insects are known to attack honey bees which (unlike their Japanese counterparts) have no innate defense against them.
As a result, even a small number of hornets can totally devastate an entire honey bee colony.
"They're like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face," said Susan Cobey, a bee breeder with Washington State University's Department of Entomology.
Officials in the state are now working to set up traps and to track down and destroy their nests.
"It's a shockingly large hornet," said entomologist Todd Murray. "It's a health hazard, and more importantly, a significant predator of honey bees."
"As a new species entering our state, this is the first drop in the bucket. Just like that, it's forever different. We need to teach people how to recognize and identify this hornet while populations are small, so that we can eradicate it while we still have a chance."