On the hunt for Asian "murder hornets" in Washington

The sting of the Asian giant hornet can kill and that's not just an expression of speech but the tough truth, earning them the nickname 'murder hornets'.

Entomologist Dr Chris Looney explains: "Every year there are people in Japan that are hospitalized from multiple stings. and some even in die"

But he says the death toll numbers from these hornets, which can grow bigger than two inches need to be put in context:

"But on the grand scheme of risks to human health, it's low to all the other stuff we do every day. I think if you look at mortality statistics, falling in your home is far more risky and we don't report "murder ladders" to the Home Depot, so."

Their threat is particularly vicious to honeybees - they crawl into the hive and rip off the heads of bees and are capable of wiping out an entire hive in hours.

And it's this threat to bees that has local beekeepers and government agencies extremely worried.

The hornet is native to Asia but it was spotted in North America last year.

Now, Looney and others are springing into action, setting traps of jars with different liquids to trap.

"We are basing our tracking programme based on things that have been effective in Japan and Korea where people have been living with this species for a very long time and there are robust public survey programmes, much like the one we're counting on Washington stake holders to execute for us."

But there's a catch - if they don't catch a queen hornet, the traps are only there to see if a population exists in the state.

So they are plotting for Summer, when the queens settle and the workers go out from the nests.

Then they will use tracking devices and heat sensors to find the nests.

"We will send out a team in our special protective hornet suits with an insecticidal dust and kill that localized nest and then we will dig it up and see what we can learn from it."

The Washington State Department of Agriculture said that while it has received hundreds of reports, there have only been two confirmed sightings in Washington State.