Written by: Sherie Shaffer, Horticulture Agent, CSU Extension-Pueblo County
As if a global pandemic wasn’t enough stress for people, earlier this year we were also bombarded with scary stories of a new insect in the U.S. dubbed the Murder Hornet. Needless to say people around here have been thinking they see Murder Hornets and have been calling the Extension office to have them identified. You’ll be glad to hear that none of the large wasps have been the Murder Hornet (also known as the Asian Giant Hornet), and it’s really likely that if you think you see one, it’s something else.
Earlier in the year people across the state were mistaking the Horntail for the Asian Giant Hornet. Horntails are large stingless wasps that develop as wood borers on certain types of trees. Now that we are getting further into summer the case of Murder Hornet mistaken identity has moved to the Eastern Cicada Killer. This very large wasp is a danger to a cicada, but will leave humans and everything else alone.
As for the real Asian Giant Hornet, it is currently only found in a small area of North East Washington State. According to Whitney Cranshaw, Entomologist from CSU, they are trying to eradicate it using traps and other controls developed in Asia. This species can only live in moist, low elevation woodlands, which is not an environment we have in Colorado. Dr. Cranshaw also indicated that it’s virtually impossible for the Asian Giant Hornet to get from Washington to Colorado on its own, and if were accidentally brought here, it would definitely not be able to establish itself.
Another troubling thing we heard in the news about this hornet, is that it was a threat to honeybees. In recent years’ bee conservation has been gaining attention, and no one wants something around that is going to kill the bees. Dr. Cranshaw stated that the Asian Giant Hornet is a generalist predator, so it will eat many large insects not just bees. Any bee hives that are in the moist, low elevation woodlands where the hornet is now present may be at risk, but any other hives are not. Even if the hornet were to become established in Washington, it would likely be a smaller threat to the bee hives than the current threats that already exist there (e.g, varroa mite, small hive beetle, Nosema ceranae, many viruses).
So rest easy, Colorado! We are safe from the Asian Giant Hornet.