You may have heard all the hype about Asian giant hornets, popularly known as 'murder hornets', and the threat they pose to bees and even humans. While a few have been spotted in Washington State, in Central New York, if you think you've found one, you're very likely wrong.

Credit: Washington State Department of Agriculture - ACTUAL Asian giant hornet

A dead queen Asian giant hornet was found in Washington state. Dr. Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, an entomologist and the coordinator of Community Integrated Pest Management at Cornell University says the sighting is "worrisome because a colony can produce dozens of queens."  In spite of this, murder hornets are unlikely to be found in Central New York. Dr. Gangloff-Kaufmann says she does believe there will be more sightings in Washington this year.


Credit: Theresa Clemons

Earlier this week, Theresa Clemons managed to capture a giant hornet in her Blossvale home. Honestly, our first thought would have been 'murder hornet' too! Look at the size of that thing. Theresa sent the specimen to Cornell to be examined.

Credit: Theresa Clemons

She's not the only one who has thought she spotted an Asian giant hornet. Dr. Gangloff-Kaufmann says she's been getting reports of sightings recently, but requires a specimen to confirm exactly what type on insect it really is. "Most often what people have found or caught is a European hornet (Vespa crabro) which is a very large wasp in the same genus as (the) Asian giant hornet."

That's exactly what Theresa captured. Cornell scientists suspect it's a queen, which accounts for its size.

What are some other species that might be mistaken for an Asian giant hornet?

Cicada Killing Wasp - a large, native, solitary wasp, does not readily sting or act aggressive toward humans, hunts cicadas, exclusively. Common in suburban areas. (Cornell)

Credit: BackyardFamrer/YouTube

European Hornet (this is what Theresa actually found) - They're not native to the United States, instead they were introduced here and became established. More common in rural areas. Not aggressive unless harassed. (Cornell)

Credit: Chris Egnato - NatureNow!/YouTube

Baldfaced Hornet - In spite of its name, this is actually a wasp. They're also not aggressive unless harassed. (That's a finger it's sitting on, so you can get a sense of scale.)

Credit: Chris Egnato - NatureNow!/YouTube

Paper Wasp - These wasps are just slightly longer than a regular yellowjackets (which ARE aggressive) - paper wasps won't bother you, if you don't bother them.

Credit: Chris Egnato - NatureNow!/YouTube

Any of these species are far more likely to be found in Central New York than the 'murder hornet'.

If you live in New York and have questions about wasps or any stinging insects, you can contact NYSIPM or your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office for advice or to submit samples for identification, says Dr. Gangloff-Kaufmann.


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