Don’t worry– no ‘murder hornets’ in Western New York

Asian giant hornet
Asian giant hornets can be two inches long. Photo courtesy Allan Smith-Pardo, Invasive Hornets, USDA APHIS PPQ,

by Connie Oswald Stofko

“I hope people aren’t afraid,” said Kathleen Goodman, a Master Gardener volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Erie County.

She was wrapping up her presentation on Asian giant hornets, which have gotten the nickname “murder hornets.” That nickname grabs people’s attention, but it stirs up fear, too.

“I just want people to know what’s going on,” Goodman said.

Goodman gave the presentation on Asian giant hornets last week as part of Garden Fence Chats, an online series provided by the Master Gardeners of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Erie County. (See videos of the entire series here.)

Why you don’t need to worry

The most important thing you need to know is that there aren’t any Asian giant hornets in Western New York.

The only place in the United States that the Asian giant hornets have been identified is in Washington State, and people there are working hard to eradicate them so they can’t spread to the rest of the country.

Asian giant hornets were brought to Washington State from Japan, though it’s not known exactly how they arrived. They may have been purposely imported, Goodman said. Some people eat them to enhance their athletic performance.

The Asian giant hornets are also in France, the southern United Kingdom, northern Italy and the Iberian Penninsula.

June 7-13 is Invasive Species Awareness Week. While Asian giant hornets aren’t a big concern here in New York State, there are other insects, animals and plants that we are dealing with. Learn more here.

Are ‘murder hornets’ dangerous?

Asian giant hornets can be dangerous to humans. They aren’t aggressive unless you swat at them, but their stings can be dangerous, Goodman said. As many as 50 people in Japan die each year from their stings.

Their stings are painful and are more dangerous than bee stings. Their long stingers can penetrate clothing, including beekeepers’ suits.

If you ever see Asian giant hornets, run away. And if you were to be stung, you should go directly to the hospital, Goodman said.

But again, we don’t have any Asian giant hornets in Western New York.

Beekeepers are the people who are most in danger because they come between the hornets and their food: honeybees.

The Asian giant hornets bite off the heads of bees with their large mandibles. They can kill all of the bees in a hive within an hour or two. They occupy the honeybee hive for up to a week or longer, feeding on the pupae and larvae. Then the hornets feed their young.

Honeybees in North America don’t have defenses against the Asian giant hornets, so if Asian giant hornets were able to spread, it would be devastating to beekeepers as well as to food growers who depend on the bees.

Supposed sightings of Asian giant hornets

Don’t believe everything you read on Facebook about Asian giant hornets, Goodman said. People may post a photo of what they say is an Asian giant hornet, but it’s a wasp or other insect. See photos of insects commonly confused with Asian giant hornets here.

There is a Facebook group called Asian Giant Hornet Watch, run by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, where you can get reliable information. She also recommended Smithsonian Magazine.

If you do spot an insect that you think might be an Asian giant hornet, you can contact Cornell Cooperative Extension, said Sharon Bachman, Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator at Cooperative Extension in Erie County.

“Always feel free to ask questions,” Bachman said.

19 Comments on “Don’t worry– no ‘murder hornets’ in Western New York

  1. I have been around these sites and other official New York sites, etc. To see what I saw today.
    My whole life I will be anaphalaxis to stings and wax from all sorts of bees.
    I used to have phobias to go outside in Winter-wear in 90+ degree weather looking left and right in fear.

    But what I saw today while sitting in my car put in a spot… It’s identical to the Asasin, not the Cicaca or European. It was even bigger than my thumb and I am a slim 33 year old. It was probably an inch and a half. I snapped a photo but not when I should have, I was in a daze looking at it fly on my mirror and walk around until it flew away and headed back that I snapped one. I submitted the photograph.

  2. I sadly didn’t get a photo of what I’m about to describe: I’ve seen several excessively large “bees” but after some “research” I concluded they were cicada killers. Today I witnessed one rolling around on the ground around what I think was a blackjacket. After a struggle it looked like it had control of the wasp and flew away with it in tow. The size in flight was overwhelming. Do we have other bibs that attack and kill wasps like this in nyc?

  3. I live in north western Pennsylvania in a if hermitage and just caught a murder hornet on my sun porch

  4. I just killed one in my house, 05/25/2022. I I live in NE Georgia. I’m allergic to bees/wasps. Believe me when I say, “scared me”. It got trapped in a window behind the blinds. I managed to spray, lots. It’s dead now.

  5. Hi Gail, yes, there are some big insects that look like the Asian giant hornet. A couple of the most common are the eastern cicada killer and the European hornet. I plan to share more detailed information in an article soon.

  6. I have also found my way here after a couple encounters with abnormally large hornets. I was wondering if there are any other species of larger than average hornets common in this area? I have grown up in central New York my entire life, but I have never seen such large hornets like I have the last couple days.

  7. I killed one in a home in amherst it was almost 2in long. I have it. I have pics I measured it in the pic. They are here!!

  8. Just read this article and comments. I believe I had these in my shed (nest). I just sprayed them the other day. They were pretty large in size and had same coloring. When I get home tonight I’m going to investigate further. If I believe them to be ” Asian murder hornets” I will be contacting the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

  9. Hi Douglas, you should contact Cornell Cooperative Extension in your county. If it is a murder hornet, they would like to know! If it isn’t, they can help figure out what it is.

  10. I believe I had one in my greenhouse on May 20th 2021. It was gorging on fly’s. never in my life have I ever seen anything that big and color. I took two pictures of it but from outside my greenhouse so pictures are not that great but shows how big the head and body was. I just recently heard about these things didn’t think to say anything till now.

  11. Really cuz I think I just caught one email me a number and I’ll send you the picture

  12. Sue, there are bees in Japan that can surround the hornet and kill it by generating heat, but the honeybees we have in Western New York don’t have any defenses like that. Yes, I’m glad we don’t have Asian giant hornets here!

  13. I can’t remember where I read or heard about honeybees defending against hornets, by surrounding the intruder and generating heat. The heat overcomes the hornet and it dies. Some bees also die, but the hive is okay. IDK what kind of hornet. Really glad we don’t have those big ones here – I’m freaked out when I see a yellow jacket getting too close…lol!

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