Washington state

A gigantic Asian hornet just showed up in Washington. And that’s bad news, experts say

Gigantic, invasive hornets could be a big headache for Washington state residents — but not for the reasons you might expect, state agriculture experts say in a release.

Asian giant wasps, which are up to 1½ inches long, are scary-looking and have a painful sting, but are not normally aggressive toward humans or animals, experts say.

But they are voracious when it comes to honeybees, capable of swiftly destroying entire hives, the Washington Department of Agriculture warns.

The agency recovered a dead giant hornet from a property in Blaine, near the Canadian border, officials say. The property owner also reporting seeing a live giant hornet flying around a bird feeder and then into the forest Dec. 8.

Asian giant hornets had not previously been confirmed in the United States, though other hornet species often are mistaken for this variety, leading to false reports, Ohio State University says.

Canadian officials reported destroying a large nest in British Columbia in August, officials say.

The giant hornets, which nest in the ground, are not normally interested in people, pets or other animals, the agency reports.

“But they can inflict a nasty sting if threatened or their nest is disturbed,” says the Department of Agriculture release. They are normally dormant in the winter.

Experts advise people to cover up food, properly dispose of garbage and avoid swatting at the hornets, which can provoke them. Wash any stings with soap and water, and reduce swelling with ice or a cold compress. Antihistamines may reduce itching.

But people who suffer multiple stings or show signs of an allergic reaction should call 911 immediately, experts say.

The Department of Agriculture plans to monitor the Blaine area for other signs of Asian giant hornets and reach out to residents to keep an eye out for the pests.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.