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May 5, 2020

The Asian Giant Hornet

 Dispelling Myths of the Asian Giant Hornet

This week, in the news and plastered over social media, reports of the “murder hornet” have been pervasive. I’d like to dispel some myths and bring some common sense to the conversation.

First, we will review what an invasive species is.  Invasive species are types of plants, animals or other living organisms that are introduced into a new area or range. They did not evolve there. Typically, there are no predators, parasites or natural control agents in place. Invasive species can greatly damage ecosystems in which they are introduced.

First reported in the US in December of 2019, the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) in Washington state. The Washington State Extension service and Washington State Department of Agriculture have teamed up to help with reporting and locating possible nests of the Asian giant hornet so they can be eliminated. They do not appear to be established there as of today.

The hornets themselves are the largest hornet known in the world, nearing 2 inches in total length and a wingspan of 3 inches. They can sting and inject a strong venom with their stings, which are nearly ¼ inch long. They are native to east Asia, south Asia, pats of far east Russia. They are burrowing hornets, preferring to build their nests underground, usually in pre-existing tunnels.

The concern around these hornets is their food preference – they feed almost exclusively on honey bees and honey bee colonies. Only a few hornets can destroy a honey bee hive in little time, a few hours. They gained their nickname “murder hornets” by the way they attack honeybee hives. The attack usually begins by hornets decapitating honeybee workers. They then steal brood and honey to feed their own young.

These hornets can sting people and caution should be used if you think you have found a colony. If you are in Washington State, a reporting system has been set up by the department of Agriculture.


The Asian giant hornet has not been sited in any other state in the USA. If you believe you have located a nest or a specimen, contact your local department of agriculture or university.

Janis Reed, Ph.D., BCE

Director Product Development & Regulatory

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