The neighborhood is buzzing––quite literally––over the hype of murder hornets! But before we all get into our bunkers, we wanted to make it clear that no actual murder hornets have been found in Alabama. However, in the Pacific Northwest, the detection of Asian giant hornets are causing beekeepers some sleepless nights.
Asian giant hornets, or Vespa mandarinia, are the world’s largest hornet, measuring 1.5-2 inches in length. These hornets have a unique coloration that makes them distinguishable from other hornets. Their large head is orange or yellow with deep, prominent eyes, and they have a black and yellow-striped abdomen.
Despite their lack of presence in sweet home Alabama, we as a pest control company thought it’d be smart to keep you in the know about these pesky hornets.
Asian Giant Hornets in the U.S.
The murder hornet was first detected in North America in December 2019, when a Washington resident found a large, dead hornet. The hornet was later confirmed to be an Asian giant hornet. Since this positive identification, four more reports have been confirmed in Washington. The United States Department of Agriculture, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, and local universities have begun to work to educate the public and to eradicate this pest.
Asian Giant Hornet Biology
Asian giant hornets are native to Asia, hence their name. The hornets are social insects and maintain underground colonies with one queen and multiple worker hornets.
Murder hornet nests are difficult to locate. They often nest in pre-existing holes in the ground, like an abandoned rodent’s nest. Other times, you can find hornet nests in hollowed tree trunks or in the roots of dead trees.
Similar to the fire ant, the queens are colony leaders in the nest. They are also able to disperse and produce offspring. The key to controlling a colony of murder hornets is to kill the queen.
As social insects, murder hornets carry out coordinated attacks against nests of other bees and wasps late in the seasons as their nests become large and are in need of food resources. Typically, this results in a “slaughter and occupy” tactic against the nests of yellow jackets and paper wasps, as well as honey bees.
Asian giant hornets are large, predatory insects. Their diets include scarbs, long-horned beetles, spiders, and caterpillars. They feed primarily on arthropods, with the European honey bee being their preferred food source. European honey bees provide a bounty of food and are full of protein and fat.
As previously mentioned, Asian giant hornets have not been identified in Alabama or the southeastern U.S. However, there are other wasps and bees in Alabama that could be easily mistaken for the Asian giant hornet. Such as:
Cicada killer wasp
Cicada killer wasps are large solitary wasps that behave differently from social hornets. These wasps build nests in the ground by pushing out soil, typically 10-20 inches deep and less than 1 inch wide.
Cicada killer wasps can be found in small soil mounds in well-drained, sandy soils or loose clay, and in bare or grass-covered areas.They get their name from their prey of choice: cicadas! Female wasps hunt for cicadas, sting them to paralyze them, and then drag the cicada back to their nest to feed their young.
European hornets are found throughout the state of Alabama, and may be mistaken for an Asian giant hornet simply because of their size. Similar to Asian giant hornets, European hornets will become aggressive if their nest is disturbed or threatened.
Do Asian Giant Hornets Pose a Threat to Humans?
Despite their size, and the aggressive nature of most hornets, Asian giant hornets do not pose a significant threat to humans. However, if provoked, Asian giant hornets will sting, and it will likely hurt.
The stinger of a Asian giant hornet is much larger than that of a honey bee, and contains more venom than bee stingers. The Asian giant hornet stinger has a curved shape with less barbs to allow for easier entry. Unlike honey bees, these hornets can sting more than once.
Anyone with an allergy to bees and wasps should take extra precautions around any bees or wasps they come into contact with, and seek medical attention when and if needed. Remember to always remain calm when around any type of bee or wasp. They will mainly only attack if their nest or food source is threatened.
Murder hornets truly sound like a mythical creature out of a dystopian novel. Despite their creepy name, they’re very unlikely to bother you. And while we don’t have murder hornets cropping up in Alabama, other types of hornets can put you or your kids at risk in your yard.
Call Vulcan Termite & Pest Control for a free estimate.