An Asian giant hornet collected by the state Department of Agriculture. (Washington State Department of Agriculture)

An Asian giant hornet collected by the state Department of Agriculture. (Washington State Department of Agriculture)

Please stop killing bumble bees: They’re not ‘murder hornets’

Beekeepers say residents are mistaking bees and wasps for Asian giant hornets.

EVERETT — It’s been happening at an alarming rate since a New York Times article telling of “murder hornets” settling in Washington, published in early May.

People are mistaking bumblebees and other backyard pollinators for Asian giant hornets, killing them, taking a photo and sending it to local beekeeping clubs or the state’s pest control division.

The state has received thousands of such calls and emails, some from as far as the Idaho and Oregon borders, state Department of Agriculture department spokesperson Karla Salp said. Local beekeeping clubs are getting calls, too.

Only five of them were correct. Three in Washington, and two in Canada.

“People aren’t very good at identifying their pollinators,” Northwest District Beekeepers Association board member Meagan Wells said.

On Wednesday, a resident near Custer in Whatcom County found a dead Asian giant hornet while on a walk.

It was a queen, indicating a colony was likely established in Blaine in 2019, managing entomologist Sven Spichiger said at a news conference Friday.

“We’re proceeding like we had a nest established, and we have two or 300 queens and we need to go find them,” he said.

Days before, someone in Langley, British Columbia, found another queen.

“What was significant about the Langley finding is, contrary to our assumptions up to this time, the Asian giant hornet has distributed wider and farther than we had anticipated up to now,” said Paul van Westendorp, a provincial apiculturist for British Columbia.

The state Department of Agriculture first verified two reports of Asian giant hornets near Blaine in December. Authorities in Canada also discovered them in two locations in British Columbia in the fall of 2019 and removed an entire colony.

The Asian giant hornet is the largest in the world and is known for known for decimating hives of honeybees by decapitating them.

The hornets hunt insects and have little interest in humans unless someone steps on their nest, which are usually in the ground, van Westendorp said.

Spichiger said the term “murder hornet” is “unnecessary sensationalism.”

Van Westendorp compared the risk to swimming in the ocean.

“You have (sharks) here in the ocean right outside of Everett,” he said. “You may go put your body in the ocean and swim. Are you really worried about a white shark? Probably not.”

However, Asian giant hornets’ sting is more dangerous than that of common bees and wasps. It can cause severe pain, swelling, necrosis and, in rare cases, death, according to the state.

Anyone allergic to bee or wasp stings should not approach the hornets.

Wells said she worries hysteria will erupt when yellow jackets make their annual appearance.

Yellow jacket queens begin to emerge from hibernation as the weather warms up. They’re bigger than the average wasp and often wait out the winter in warm places like apartments and garages. Wells said she’s already seen social media posts of people mistaking a yellow jacket queen for an Asian giant hornet.

But unlike yellow jackets, Asian giant hornets have an orange head and big pincers at their mouths. Yellow jackets are about half an inch long, while the hornets can grow to two inches.

“My primary concern is that people will massively over (react) and wipe out bumblebees or other pollinators because they think they are Asian giant hornets,” Wells said.

This is a bumblebee. (Wikipedia)

This is a bumblebee. (Wikipedia)

Over Memorial Day Weekend, the state found several fake signs posted at trail heads, including Tiger Mountain, claiming Asian giant hornets were nesting in the area.

No Asian giant hornets have been spotted in Snohomish County. But they could make their way here.

“If the Asian giant hornet were to become established (in Whatcom), it could spread to Snohomish County and it probably wouldn’t even take that long,” Salp said.

The Pacific Northwest is ideal habitat for the hornets, Spichiger said. The population here is on the cusp of becoming established.

“It is my belief we’re still very early on for any sort of infestation which gives us an opportunity to use everybody’s eyes and ears and wipe it out,” he said.

The state aims to eradicate the hornets before they gain a foothold.

Asian giant hornets come to the U.S. mostly on cargo ships from Asia.

If the species spreads south to Snohomish County, van Westendorp said, it will likely be through man-made means, such as a train traveling south.

“They could well be there already,” he said. “Or they could be there tomorrow.”

Salp said there have been a few “very suspicious” reports in other areas of Whatcom County and in Port Townsend.

The state’s website has detailed photos comparing the Asian giant hornet to other pollinators.

“Don’t kill it unless you’re 100% sure it’s an Asian giant hornet,” Salp said. “Please stop killing poor insects.”

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439;

How to spot an Asian giant hornet

The state Department of Agriculture has detailed descriptions and photos of Asian giant hornets on its website at

Citizens can also volunteer to build and place traps for Asian giant hornets on their property starting in July. Commercially available hornet and wasp traps will not catch Asian giant hornets because the holes are too small for the hornets to fit through.

Talk to us

More in Local News

FILE - In this photo taken Oct. 2, 2018, semi-automatic rifles fill a wall at a gun shop in Lynnwood, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee is joining state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to propose limits to magazine capacity and a ban on the sale of assault weapons. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Democrats advance assault weapons ban, new rules for gun buyers

The measures passed a House committee without Republican support. They are part of a broader agenda to curb gun violence.

A person and child watch seagulls on the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry in Washington on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Cold weather returning to Western Washington

Nightly temperatures in the 20s with highs in the 30s were expected this weekend. Cold weather shelters will be open.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring is this year's winner of the Henry M. Jackson Award given by Economic Alliance Snohomish County. Photographed in Marysville, Washington on April 25, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Marysville State of the City address set for Feb. 1

Mayor Jon Nehring will highlight 2022 accomplishments and look to the future. Questions from the audience will follow.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
A move to require voting and a bicameral chasm on vehicle pursuits

It’s Day 19 and the mood is heating up as the third week of the 2023 legislative session comes to an end.

Lynnwood County Council candidate Joshua Binda is the subject of two complaints with the Public Disclosure Commission. (Josh Binda campaign photo)
Binda fined $1,000 for misuse of campaign contributions

The Lynnwood Council member’s personal use of donor funds was a “serious violation” of campaign law, the state PDC concluded.

Juniper DeCasso, 17, prepares groceries for pickup at the Edmonds Food Bank in Edmonds, Washington on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. Scriber Lake High School student Juniper works at the Edmonds Food bank as part of an on-the-job training class that teaches students about career options and goal planning, while also paying them for a part-time internship. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
School program gives Scriber Lake teens class credits — and paychecks

The on-the-job training program offers paid internships and career planning assignments with a real-world feel.

Dr. Robert Carsrud from the 2015 King County Voters Pamphlet. (King County Elections)
State to pay $600K over psychologist’s harassment at Monroe prison

In a federal lawsuit, Tressa Grummer alleged persistent sexual harassment as an intern by her supervisor, Robert Carsrud.

Construction crews work on the Lynnwood Light rail station on Tuesday, March 29, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Sound Transit asserts Bellevue-Redmond line won’t delay Lynnwood light rail

Its board approved $6 million to study an East Link “starter line.” Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell said: “Snohomish County wants to ride, too.”

FILE - The sun dial near the Legislative Building is shown under cloudy skies, March 10, 2022, at the state Capitol in Olympia, Wash. An effort to balance what is considered the nation's most regressive state tax code comes before the Washington Supreme Court on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, in a case that could overturn a prohibition on income taxes that dates to the 1930s. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Justices weigh legality of tax aimed at rebalancing state’s tax code

The state Supreme Court heard arguments about whether to overturn a prohibition on income taxes that dates to the 1930s.

Most Read