The year's first Asian giant hornet sighting in the nation was reported in Snohomish County, entomologists with state and federal agencies confirmed Wednesday.
Officials said the hornet, which had died, was found by a resident near Marysville. The resident alerted authorities June 4 by submitting a report through the Washington State Department of Agriculture's online Hornet Watch Report Form, officials said. WSDA retrieved the dried remains of the male hornet on June 8, according to a statement from the state agency.
The sighting was the first to be recorded in Snohomish County, and does not appear to be linked to Asian giant hornets previously observed in Canada and Whatcom County in 2019 and 2020. In October 2020, WSDA successfully eradicated a nest in Blaine, Whatcom County, removing 98 worker hornets. Several queens were also destroyed, WSDA said.
Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist, emphasized during a Wednesday morning news conference that a single specimen does not necessarily indicate a larger population of the hornets.
Due to the Marysville specimen's dry condition and the timing of its discovery — males typically don't show up until July at the earliest, said WSDA — entomologists hypothesized that the hornet might have been a hitchhiker on globally traded products or could have been alive during an earlier season but not found until this year.
"The find is perplexing because it is too early for a male to emerge. Last year, the first males emerged in late July, which was earlier than expected," Dr. Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator for the USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine program, said in WSDA's statement. "However, we will work with WSDA to survey the area to verify whether a population exists in Snohomish County."
Because the Blaine specimen looks different from those found in Whatcom County and lacks the distinctive orange-yellow stripes on the abdomen, Spichiger said it was subjected to DNA testing and found to have different genetic material than the earlier specimens.
"There really isn't enough information to speculate on how it got here or when it got here," he said.
Spichiger said the department would respond by increasing the number and geographical reach of traps set this year.
He and other WSDA officials said it's more important than ever for people to keep an eye out for Asian giant hornets, report possible sightings and get involved in citizen trapping if inclined.
Beginning in July, crews with the Washington State Department of Transportation will set hornet traps in Northwest Washington along the highway right of way in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, San Juan, Jefferson and Clallam counties and monitor them throughout the season.
"In 2020, half of the confirmed Asian giant hornet sightings in Washington and all of the confirmed sightings in Canada came from the public," WSDA said. "Every suspected sighting in Washington State should be reported to the Washington State Department of Agriculture online at agr.wa.gov/hornets, by emailing email@example.com, or calling 1-800-443-6684."