New York State IPM Program

May 5, 2020
by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
Comments Off on Asian Giant Hornets – A Concern for New York?

Asian Giant Hornets – A Concern for New York?

A pinned specimen of a large wasp, the Asian giant wasp from a side view.

Asian giant hornet, pinned. Photo by Allan Smith-Pardo, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

By now many Americans reading or watching the news have heard about “murder hornets” from Asia invading the American landscape. It is true that in many parts of East Asia, Japan in particular, a large hornet lives and feasts upon honey bees and other insects. This is the Asian giant hornet (AGH), or Vespa mandarinia, which is a relative of the European hornet (Vespa crabro) that we typically see in North America. The European hornet is an import to America that has naturalized, or become established here as if it was native. The Asian giant hornet has just arrived on North America’s west coast, by unknown means. Residents and beekeepers alike are hoping it doesn’t become naturalized in America.

Pinned specimen of the large black and yellow Asian giant hornet, seen from above.

Asian giant hornet, Photo by Allan Smith-Pardo, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

The Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest, measuring 1.6 to 2 inches long, with a particularly large yellow-orange head. It is a social insect, living in colonies built in soil burrows dug by rodents and other animals. While people may not often see Asian giant hornets, beekeepers will definitely notice their decimated colonies of honey bees. It takes a handful of Asian giant hornets to slaughter an entire honey bee colony, after which hornets feed on the larvae, pupae and honey inside the hive. Japanese honey bees, which are a different species of honey bee than what we raise in North America, can fight back against AGH by surrounding and super-heating the wasp in a ball of bee bodies. Our European honey bees also have this defense behavior, but it is unknown how they would fare with this kind of predation. If AGH becomes established in the US and Canada, the greatest threat will be to beekeepers and their honey bees.

The hazard to humans posed by the stings of AGH is real. The venom is toxic and with their long stingers, AGH can inject more venom into a wound than most other stinging insects. Stings lead to intense pain and swelling, and can induce renal failure and anaphylaxis. Multiple stings can be deadly. But, these hornets do not come after humans and left alone, they mind their own business. The efforts to eradicate AGH from Washington State and Canada will be a priority aimed at avoiding their permanent establishment in the US. Unlike claims in some media outlets, it will likely take many years for this wasp to spread across the country on its own if we fail to eradicate it. Beekeepers will be on the front lines of detection.

*** June 2020 UPDATE – A dead queen Asian giant hornet was discovered this spring on a road near Custer, WA, which is close to the western Canada border. This indicates that queens produced by at least one colony in the Fall of 2019 overwintered and emerged. To date (6/3/20) no other detections have been reported.

*** August 2020 UPDATE

In 2020, both Washington and Canada have had new confirmed sightings of the Asian giant hornet. In addition to earlier reports, one queen, one worker and another unspecified wasp have been reported. This means we are not done with Asian giant hornets yet! Finding a queen wasp in May suggests that they survived winter in the Pacific Northwest. As colonies of these and related wasps grow in size through the end of summer, there may be more findings to report. Stay Tuned!

There are several species of wasps in the US that are very commonly confused with AGH and often killed unnecessarily:

Cicada KillerSphecius speciosus – a large, native, solitary wasp, does not readily sting or act aggressive toward humans, hunts cicadas, exclusively, digs burrows in the soil where eggs are laid upon the body of paralyzed cicadas. Common in suburban areas.

A cicada killer wasp rests on a green leaf.

Cicada killer wasp, photo by Nancy Hinckle, bugwood.org

 

European HornetVespa crabro – an introduced social species, colonies started by a single queen, colony builds and expands a tan paper ball nest typically in hollow trees and abandoned barns and structures. More common in rural areas. Not aggressive unless harassed.

Pinned specimen of European hornet seen from above

European hornet pinned specimen, photo by Allan Smith-Pardo, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

Pinned specimen of European hornet seen from the side

European hornet pinned specimen, photo by Allan Smith-Pardo, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baldfaced hornetDolichovespula maculata – Large black-and-white wasp, not a true hornet, colonies started by a single queen, nest is a grey paper ball usually high in trees or on the side of structures. Not aggressive unless harassed.

A black and white baldfaced hornet on a white background

A baldfaced hornet resting, photo by Johnny N Dell, bugwood.org

Yellowjackets (many species) – Vespula sp. – Small yellow-and-black wasps that nest in large colonies in soil and other man-made cavities. Can be aggressive, especially in early fall.

A yellow and black yellowjacket pinned in a collection.

A “ground hornet” or “widow yellowjacket, photo by J.L. Gangloff-Kaufmann

Paper waspsPolistes sp. – Slightly longer than yellowjackets, various colors, long legs, umbrella comb nest with a few to a few dozen wasps. Not aggressive unless harassed.

A black and yellow European paper wasp sits on a paper nest.

A European paper wasp sits on a paper comb nest. Photo by David Cappaert, bugwood.org

 

The Bottom Line: A few Asian giant hornets were discovered in Washington State in 2019. The greatest threat is to honey bees and beekeepers. Efforts to eradicate this wasp are underway. New York does not have Asian giant wasps and hopefully won’t anytime soon.

Residents of the west coast should keep an eye out for Asian giant hornets and residents of Washington State are strongly encouraged to submit reports of sightings to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. 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.

 

June 5, 2015
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Inspect for Wasps and Avoid the Sting

Inspect for Wasps and Avoid the Sting

Yellowjackets, bald-faced hornets and paper wasps are stinging insects that nest on or near structures. While colony sizes start small, the population of stinging insects in nests grows over time and can result in hundreds to thousands of individuals in the case of yellowjackets. Whereas management of large nests requires the assistance of a professional, starter nests can be easily knocked down, repeatedly if necessary, to discourage future nesting. Here are some steps to inspecting for wasps to avoid the sting!

1. Inspection: starting in early June, weekly walks around the perimeter of your property or facility can be used to identify the start of stinging insect nests. This might include paper wasps, which create an open-comb nest, or yellowjackets and bald-faced hornets that create nests wrapped in a papery envelope.

2. Removal: early nests may only contain a few individuals. These can be knocked down with a pole or by spraying with a hose from a safe distance. It is advised that you wear thick clothing, and conduct work at night using indirect light (do not shine a beam of light directly at the nest). Red filtered light will not be detected by wasps.

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3. Extermination: Once nests are on the ground, stomp on them to kill any adults or larvae that are inside.

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4. Repeat: if queens escape, they may return to rebuild the nest somewhere nearby. However, repeated removal of the nest will ultimately discourage wasps from nesting there.

Note: some yellowjacket species will nest in wall voids, and you will see wasps flying in and out of the space during your inspection. A vacuum can be used to reduce the number of wasps that nest in wall voids, as shown in this video.

Staples White Plains (2)

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