It’s a “murder hornet”! Or is it?

Don’t reach for the shotgun yet.  There are many wasps that look similar to the Asian giant hornets you’ve seen on TV. Images courtesy Hanna Royals (USDA APHIS PPQ ITP), specimens provided by Colorado State University’s C.P. Gillette Museum.

If you’ve never heard of “murder hornets,” more accurately called Asian giant hornets, Vespa mandarinia, you’ve probably been living on the space station for the past month.  And at the risk of stirring up a hornet’s nest, I thought it worthwhile to remind us all June is the month of the cicada killer wasp.  This is another common large wasp likely to be mistaken for the Asian giant hornet haunting news feeds this spring.

Actually, both Asian giant hornet workers and cicada killer wasps vary in size based on their diets and environmental factors; so some cicada killer individuals may equal or exceed the AGH in length.

So, if you look in your backyard and see the biggest flying monster wasp you’ve ever seen in your life, and if you’re ready to grab your kids and leave town, calm down.  It’s probably the cicada killer wasp or one of the many native wasps that you’ve blissfully ignored in the past. By all accounts the Asian giant hornet will take years, if ever, to reach Texas.  And if it gets here, there’s a good chance it won’t like our treeless plains and hot summer temperatures.

For more information about cicada killer wasps, check out my earlier post.  Also, for a beautiful gallery of royalty free images of the Asian giant hornet and hornet look-alikes, check out the USDA/APHIS image gallery or, the very informative interactive ID guide for AGH put out by North Carolina State.


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