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Western’s newest admit: a murder hornet

Hornet to be part of collection of 60,000 insects

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Close up of an Asian giant hornet. This hornet was part of one of the first nests found in Whatcom County. // Photo courtesy of Brad Cash and John Reynolds.

Western Washington University has become the first university in the United States to obtain an Asian giant hornet. The hornet is from a radio giveaway on Bellingham’s classic rock station 92.9 KISM.

“[The hornet] will be pinned and maintained in the WWU Insect Collection, which is a collection of nearly 60,000 insect specimens used to support teaching and research in the department,” said Merrill Peterson, a professor of biology at Western, in an email.

The hornet will not be on a prominent display, but instead in a special drawer for students to see. 

The Asian giant hornet, also known as the ‘murder hornet,’ is an invasive species that has recently made its home in Whatcom County. These hornets have been making nests around the County and killing the native honeybees.

Despite the nickname given to this species, Asian giant hornets are not the most aggressive.

“Many more people are killed each year by honeybees than by Asian giant hornets,” said Robert Peterson, Montana State University professor of entomology.  “It doesn't seek out and sting people. It doesn't murder people.”

Still, residents of Whatcom County need to report hornet sightings to the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

“They can really damage ecosystems,” Peterson said. “Whether it's agriculture, or whether it's natural ecosystems. We have to be very aware when we have species like this enter into the areas that they, frankly, don't belong [in].”

Despite the concern, residents of Whatcom County have found a way to make the invasion educational and fun.

“All credit for getting the specimen to WWU is due to Marigrace Cramsey, who heard about it on a radio show in which the host was saying that they wanted to find a good home for it, ideally at an educational institution,” Merrill Peterson said in an email. “She contacted the host of the radio show to tell them why WWU would be a good place to receive the specimen.”

The hornet giveaway is part of an ongoing segment on Brad Cash and John Reynolds’ morning show on 92.9 KISM. Cash and Reynolds have people call in, and those who have the best answers win a dead Asian giant hornet from Jaime Polinder’s nest 0.

“[Callers] want to hang them from the rearview mirror in the car, make ice cubes out of them and put them in people's drinks or gag people,” Cash said. “They build a little throne for it. So, it consists in royalty, the rest of its days.”

In addition to receiving an Asian giant hornet, winners will also get an extermination service from Bio Bug.

The deadline for the giveaway was on April 16, but there are still many other hornets in Whatcom County.

“[The hornets] are in a container in the freezer right now, in one of the side panels of the freezer with the warning: ‘keep your hands off’,” Reynolds said. “There are other things in our work refrigerator that'd be worse off for you. Those murder hornets are the least dangerous thing that's in that refrigerator freezer.”


Cameron Martinez

Cameron Martinez is a campus life reporter for The Front. She is majoring in visual journalism with a minor in queer studies. When not reporting, Cameron enjoys designing pages and watching podcasts. You can reach her at cameron.westernfront@gmail.com and @doctorcameron on Instagram.


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