Reminder: No murder hornets in WNY; how to identify lookalikes

European hornet compard to Asian giant hornet
The European hornet, left, is only half the size of the Asian giant hornet, but it seems huge if it’s in your yard. Notice that the black bands on the European hornet have what look like upside-down crowns and the Asian giant hornet has solid black bands. Photo courtesy Hanna Royals, Museum Collections: Hymenoptera, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

by Connie Oswald Stofko

“We do not have Asian giant hornets (also known as murder hornets) anywhere in Western New York,” said Sharon Bachman, Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Erie County.

We ran an article about murder hornets in October 2021. We didn’t have any in Western New York then and we still don’t have any.

I keep hearing from people who think they have spotted murder hornets–or even insist that what they encountered was a murder hornet.

It’s easy to understand that people are confused– there are many lookalikes in our area.

If you see a really, really big wasp (two inches long), it’s probably an eastern cicada killer. It looks scary, but it generally doesn’t sting humans.

Another lookalike is the European hornet. It’s only half the size of an Asian giant hornet, but when it’s flying around, it looks big.

Bachman said she was talking to a caller who thought she might have an Asian giant hornet. Bachman asked the caller if the bands on the insect looked like upside-down crowns, and they did. That identified the insect as a European hornet; Asian giant hornets have solid bands. See more on European hornets here.

See more information about murder hornet lookalikes here.

eastern cicada killer compared to Asian giant hornet
The eastern cicada killer, left, is as big as the Asian giant hornet. Photo courtesy Hanna Royals, Museum Collections: Hymenoptera, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

The only Asian giant hornets identified in the United States are in Washington State. They are believed to be confined to Whatcom County, which is on the Canadian border. Scientists are setting traps to eradicate the giant Asian hornets. See more in this May 25, 2022 article from OPB, an Oregon nonprofit corporation serving as a primary source of news, information and culture.

What to do if you think you saw a murder hornet in WNY

If you still worry that you may have spotted a murder hornet, don’t bother posting on Facebook or leaving a comment here; you won’t get the information you need. Instead, contact experts who can tell whether your specimen is an Asian giant hornet or a lookalike. You can email photos and location information to Plants@agriculture.ny.gov or contact Cornell Cooperative Extension in your county.

1 Comment on “Reminder: No murder hornets in WNY; how to identify lookalikes

  1. Thanks for the informative article! We’ve had so many calls at the Master Gardener Hotline about people seeing murder hornets. Now more people will know what they are seeing.

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