For the second time this year, a “murder hornet” has been spotted in Washington state, officials said Thursday.
But it’s the first confirmed report of a live Asian giant hornet in the state in 2021, the state department of agriculture said. The sighting in Whatcom County was reported Wednesday.
Earlier this summer, a dead insect was found north of Seattle.
The Asian giant hornet, first spotted in the U.S. in 2019, preys on insects, including honeybees — a small group can destroy a honeybee hive in hours, officials say — but this hornet was attacking paper wasp nests.
The hornet was east of Blaine, about 2 miles from where state officials destroyed a nest in October. That nest, which was in a tree rather than the more common location in the ground, was the first giant hornet nest discovered in the U.S.
The hornets pose a threat because they attack and destroy entire honeybee hives. They attack other insects but not to that degree, experts say. Honeybees are vital pollinators for agriculture.
The other confirmed report of a hornet this year was near Marysville in Snohomish County in early June, officials said.
Experts believe it was dead well before that from a previous season based on the timing of when males emerge, but Marysville is around 70 miles south of Blaine.
“This new report continues to underscore how important public reporting is for all suspected invasive species, but especially Asian giant hornet,” Washington State Department of Agriculture Managing Entomologist Sven Spichiger said at the time.
Spichiger on Thursday noted that the live hornet spotted this week was attacking paper wasp nests, and he asked anyone in the area with those wasp nests to keep an eye out and report any Asian giant hornet sightings, including the direction that they go when they fly away.
Asian giant hornets were first found in the Vancouver Island area of Canada in August 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The species was first found in the United States in Washington state near Blaine, in the northwestern part of the state near the Canadian border, in December of that year.
Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.