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Asian Giant Hornet in the News, but Not in Kentucky

The following information is provided by the University of Kentucky department of entomology.

As previously reported in a KPN article, there is a USDA confirmed identification of Asian giant hornet (Figure 1) from a farm in Blaine, Washington. This is the first and only confirmed identification in the United States.  Blaine, Washington is located in the northwestern corner of Washington on the Canadian border. The wasp was also reported from nearby Vancouver Island in British Columbia (BC).

This past weekend, several national media outlets reported on the hornet and this has spurred considerable concern. To reiterate, there have been no confirmed findings of this pest outside of the state of Washington. There are other insect species that can resemble the Asian giant hornet, including the European hornet, bald faced hornet, and cicada killers (Figure 2). The Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest vespid wasp, its workers are about 1 1/2 inches in length and queens are as long as 2 inches. European hornets and cicada killers can be of similar lengths but there are important ways to tell them apart, as outlined in the image below.

Figure 2: This infographic covers some of the basics of Asian giant hornets and also shows some of the Kentucky look-a-likes.

Why is this a pest of concern?

Asian giant hornet is infamous for conducting group raids on colonies of European honeybees, which can result in the complete destruction of said honeybee colonies.  Asian giant hornet workers attack the colonies in mass and decapitate the honeybees, which they dismember and feed to their larvae. This can mean losses for beekeepers in infested areas.

These insects also pose a possible medical hazard. They will defend themselves and their nest and they have a longer stinger than honeybees. The venom of an Asian giant hornet is also potentially more hazardous than other stinging insects.

By: Jonathan Larson and Ric Bessin, University of Kentucky Entomology Extension Specialists

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