Beyond its size, the hornet has a distinctive look,
with a cartoonishly fierce face featuring teardrop eyes like Spider-Man,
orange and black stripes that extend down its body like a tiger, and broad, wispy wings like a small dragonfly.
He contacted the state, which came out to confirm that it was indeed an Asian giant hornet.
Soon after, they learned that a local beekeeper in the area had also found one of the hornets.
Dr. Looney said it was immediately clear that the state faced a serious problem,
but with only two insects in hand and winter coming on,
it was nearly impossible to determine how much the hornet had already made itself at home.
Over the winter, state agriculture biologists and local beekeepers got to work, preparing for the coming season.
Ruthie Danielsen, a beekeeper who has helped organize her peers to combat the hornet, unfurled a map across the hood of her vehicle,
noting the places across Whatcom County where beekeepers have placed traps.
“Most people are scared to get stung by them,” Ms. Danielsen said.
“We’re scared that they are going to totally destroy our hives.”
Adding to the uncertainty — and mystery — were some other discoveries of the Asian giant hornet across the border in Canada.
In November, a single hornet was seen in White Rock, British Columbia, perhaps 10 miles away from the discoveries in Washington State —
likely too far for the hornets to be part of the same colony.
Even earlier, there had been a hive discovered on Vancouver Island,
across a strait that probably was too wide for a hornet to have crossed from the mainland.
Crews were able to track down the hive on Vancouver Island.
Conrad Berube, a beekeeper and entomologist in the town of Nanaimo, was assigned to exterminate it.
He set out at night, when the hornets would be in their nest.
He put on shorts and thick sweatpants, then his bee suit.
He donned Kevlar braces on his ankles and wrists.
But as he approached the hive, he said, the rustling of the brush and the shine of his flashlight awakened the colony.
Before he had a chance to douse the nest with carbon dioxide,
he felt the first searing stabs in his leg — through the bee suit and underlying sweatpants.
“It was like having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh,” he said.
He ended up getting stung at least seven times, some of the stings drawing blood.