So You Think You Have Seen a Killer Wasp?

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Spring is upon us and with the rising temperatures come an increase in insect activity. A group of insects that are of concern for a few people include members of the wasp/hornet/bee families. Considering the discovery of the Asian Giant Hornet specimens (the so-called “murder hornet”) in the Pacific Northwest, it is prudent to point out two species of wasps and hornets that are well-established here in North Carolina and often mistaken as the “murder hornet.” These include the European Hornet and the Cicada Killer Wasp.

The European Hornet is a non-native insect, but a well-established species in North Carolina and has been here for decades. This insect has black and yellow markings and resembles a large yellowjacket. For more information about this species of hornet, visit the following link: European Hornets.

European Hornets are already active at this time of the year, but the Cicada Killer Wasp will become active in the mid to late summer. Just as their name implies, these wasps are predators of cicadas and their mating season will take place in the summer. The females of these wasps capture cicadas, paralyze them with their stinger, and feed them to their young in underground nests. For more information about these wasps, visit the following link: Cicada Killer Wasp.

Both insects are quite large as adults with both the European Hornet and Cicada Killer Wasps averaging around 1 ½ inches. It is understandable how one may confuse them with the Asian Giant Hornet. The Asian Giant Hornet: however,(at least at the time of this writing) has not been found in North Carolina. If you find a suspicious insect, do not hesitate to send us a photo or a specimen for identification. For a comparison of the Asian Giant Hornet and similar insects, visit the following link: Murder Hornet Comparison.

Author: Kenneth Bailey, Extension agent, Agriculture

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