First male 'murder hornet' in US captured in Washington state

First male 'murder hornet' in US captured in Washington state
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The first male “murder hornet” in the U.S. has been found in Washington state, the state’s department of agriculture announced Tuesday.

The hornets, whose queen can grow up to 2 inches long, came to the U.S. from Asia and pose a grave risk to the native bee populations they feed on. Farmers in the Northwest and across the country depend on bees to pollinate their crops. 

The invasive species also poses a risk to humans. In Japan, murder hornets are estimated to kill approximately 50 people a year.

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The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has now found a total of seven murder hornets in the state, according to The Bellingham Herald. All of the sightings in the U.S. have been in Whatcom County, Wash. 

The WSDA located a queen earlier this year, though the discovery of the male came weeks earlier than anticipated for the season.

“Trapping a male Asian giant hornet in July initially came as a surprise,” Sven Spichiger, the WSDA's managing entomologist, said in a statement. 

“But further examination of the research and consultation with international experts confirmed that a few males can indeed emerge early in the season,” Spichiger added.

Victims have described the sting of the world's largest hornet species, which can break through beekeeper suits, as feeling like hot metal piercing skin.