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It’s big, but it’s not a ‘murder hornet’

Each summer since the release of information about Northern giant hornets being found in Washington state in 2020, Texas A&M AgriLife entomologists have been inundated with questions and reported sightings.

But these sightings of Northern giant hornets, which were formerly named the Asian giant hornet and commonly called “murder hornet,” are nothing more than cases of mistaken identity, said Molly Keck, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service integrated pest management specialist and entomologist, San Antonio.

Keck and other AgriLife Extension entomologists said people are most likely mistaking cicada killers, which are large native Texas wasps, for Northern giant hornets.

“Northern giant hornets are not in Texas, and from reports, agencies in Washington state have done a very good job of controlling their numbers and preventing their spread,” she said. “It would be a far leap for them to be in Texas.” Keck said she is mostly receiving phone calls about sightings. But she also receives photos of native cicada killers, also known as ground hornets, submitted as suspected Northern giant hornets.

“To date, we have identified hundreds of insects that people in Texas suspect might be Northern giant hornets (murder hornets),” Porter said. “Eighty percent of these have been either the eastern cicada killer or western cicada killer. But it is understandable how non-entomologists might think they saw a Northern giant hornet.”




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