Scientific Name: Vespa mandarinia

The Entomological Society of America has changed the accepted common name of Vespa mandarinia. “Northern giant hornet” has been formally adopted as the new common name. To learn more visit the Entomological Society of America Web site.

What Is It?

Northern giant hornet is an invasive species from Asia and a known predator of honeybees. Though not typically aggressive to humans, they will attack anything that threatens their colonies, which usually nest in the ground or in tree cavities. They can sting multiple times and have powerful venom that can inflict serious injury, or in some cases, death. In late summer through fall, hornets may attack honeybee colonies en masse, resulting in the complete destruction of a healthy colony in a matter of hours. The attack leaves piles of decapitated victims in front of the hive.

Is It Here Yet?

Yes. Northern giant hornets were verified in Blaine (2019) and Bellingham (2020). No Northern giant hornets have been trapped in 2022 and 2023, but the Washington Department of Agriculture is still urging the public to keep an eye out and report any sightings.

Why Should I Care?

Northern giant hornet poses a serious threat to Washington honeybees and the honeybee industry. While the extent of possible damage to Washington’s honeybee industry is not yet known, a similar hornet in Europe has reduced beehives by 30 percent and up to two-thirds of the honey yield.

How Can We Stop It?

Report any sighting to the Washington State Department of Agriculture or the Washington Invasive Species Council reporting app. IMPORTANT NOTE: Use extreme caution near northern giant hornets. The stinger of the northern giant hornet is longer than that of a honeybee and the venom is more powerful than any local bee or wasp. If you find a colony do NOT attempt to remove or eradicate it. Report it immediately using one of the avenues here.

What Are its Characteristics?

  • Northern giant hornets grow to 2 inches in length.
  • Bodies are marked by yellow or orange and black stripes with large yellow or orange heads.
  • Wingspan is about 3 inches.

How Do I Distinguish it From Native Species?

Northern giant hornets distinguishing feature is their size. There is not a native species of wasp or hornet in Washington State that grows to the size that northern giant hornets regularly do. In addition to their large size, their yellow/orange heads are another identifying feature.

Additional Photographs