Think You See A Murder Hornet? Be Sure It’s Not A New York Lookalike
Look in the air! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a murder hornet...or is it? Maybe it's an Asian Giant Hornet (AGH), but if you live in New York State, it's more than likely one of the big lookalikes that call New York State home... but how do we know for sure?
You may have heard that a second murder hornet nest was found and eradicated in Washington state with another one being found in the area. As of now, we don't know if there are any murder hornets in New York but it is 2021 so anything is possible.
The New York State DEC says there are many kinds of large bees/wasps in our state, but there are two main ones that some may confuse for the "murder hornet". So maybe we don't need to worry about the murder hornet at the moment in our area but it could be another kind of bee that could give us some problems.
Cicada Killer Wasp
According to the LSU Agriculture Center, Cicada Killer Wasps are smaller than the AGH and has yellow stripes that are uneven vs. the AGH's more defined lines. Good luck figuring that out while they are buzzing around your head. If your a cicada reading this, then I have good news for you.
The cicada killer's head is dull brown with a small yellow patch on it, while the AGH will have a large orange or yellow head. The abdomen is another way you can spot the difference, with the cicada killer having a bright orange abdomen, with AGH possessing a dark brown or black one.
Unless the cicada killer is provoked, they are harmless, so you don't need to panic. I've found that panicking isn't helpful on most occasions anyway but that is a story for another day.
The easiest way to tell if the thing you see flying around is AGH or a European Hornet (which can be found in New York State) -- the size. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2020 the European Hornet will size up at about an inch, which is dwarfed by the AGH's 1.5 to two-inch size.
The European Hornet will also have a head that transitions from reddish-orange to yellow, compared to the darker head of the AGH.
What about the Asian Giant Hornet?
If you see one, of these don't run because they can fly faster than you can run. If they see a moving target, they consider it a provocation. You are encouraged to crouch low to the ground, stop moving and cover your head. I agree with you, I'm running anyway.
If you see a male AGH then relax because only the female hornets are capable of stinging. Yeah, I'm not checking underneath either. Apparently, the Asian Giant Hornet is a teetotaler because they are agitated by the smell of alcohol and they are drawn to perfume and aftershave.
On a more serious note, their venom is very toxic and will attack if threatened. So maybe do try to kill them yourself...