Asian Giant Hornet

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Asian Giant Hornet

Asian giant hornet side view. Note sting at tip of abdomen. (Matt Bertone, NC State University)

I’d like to talk to you about the Asian giant hornets found recently in Washington State. The news media are reporting that the Asian giant hornet has been found in Washington State, and this hornet lives up to its name because the Queens are more than two inches long while the workers are about 1 and 1/2 inches long and the quote “murder Hornet” nickname given by the media really refers to their well-deserved reputation as a pest because they attack and can destroy an entire bee colony.

So far the only reports of the Asian giant hornet in North America are from the Pacific Northwest and Southwestern Canada. Keep in mind they are not found currently in North Carolina, however, over the years we have received numerous calls and emails from people about finding Japanese hornets in the same is happening right now in every case what people were seeing where European Hornets which is no wimp itself. Adult European Hornets somewhat resemble Yellow Jackets but a much larger head about 1 and 1/2 inch and a brown with wide yellow markings.

Queens of the Asian giant hornet are more than 2 inches long. The Asian giant hornets have almost entirely yellow-orange colored heads they have a dark thorax which is the body section where the wings and legs attached, and the abdomen has dark brown and black bands. The head of the European hornet is reddish-brown becoming yellowish near the face. Also, the eyes of Asian giant hornets are smaller in relation to the size of the head compared to the European Hornets.

European hornet Queens are busy building nests that may be hidden in hollow sections of a tree trunk or an attics. If you see large wasp entering holes or gaps in roof or soffits or going under decks although it may take several weeks for the numbers of new workers to start increasing now is actually the time to act before the Colonies begin to grow and produce workers that would defend the nest aggressively. Watch for signs of wasp activity in and around your home. An average of 62 people dies annually from bee wasp and hornet stings in the United States with about 80% of those cases being males. A study published in 2014 actually estimated that there are about 220,000 ER visits annually due to bee and wasp stings.

Asian giant hornets are not an issue for us at this time and are not likely to be one in the near future barring some accidental introduction. However, everyone needs to be aware that we have a resident Hornet species that at first glance but they are similar to the Asian giant hornet. As with any bee wasp or hornet sting, the greatest threat is for people who are highly allergic which need to be careful Outdoors. Regardless of whether or not you are sensitive to such things always be careful and watch for signs of being wasp activity. Use caution when approaching a wasp and hornet nest inside and be careful when working outdoors on items that have not been disturbed for some time, such as piles of wood.

If you find a wasp that fits the description of the Asian giant hornet make sure you contact your local County Extension office. You can also submit images online to the North Carolina Plant Disease and Insect Clinic.