A gentle reminder: That bug in your backyard probably isn’t an Asian Giant Hornet

by | May 13, 2022

An Asian Giant Hornet (left) compared to a European Hornet (right). The Asian Giant Hornet has not been found in North Carolina.

The sun is shining and the bees are buzzing – but not the Asian Giant Hornets.

As the weather gets warmer and insects like bees and wasps become more active, NCDA&CS has seen an uptick in calls from people who believe they have seen an Asian Giant Hornet, colloquially known as the “murder hornet,” near their homes. Despite the insect’s frightening (and overdramatic) nickname, North Carolinians can rest assured that the insect has not come to the state and likely never will.

Native to several parts of Asia, the hornets were discovered in the Pacific Northwest in 2019 and 2020. However, they have been well-contained and have never come anywhere close to reaching North Carolina or anywhere on the East Coast.

“After two years of extensive survey and thousands of citizen reports, we are quite confident that Asian Giant Hornet has not made its way to North Carolina,” said Joy Goforth, NCDA&CS Plant Pest Administrator. “The Washington State Department of Agriculture has also done an excellent job of locating infestations and responding quickly. They have placed 1,800 traps throughout Oregon and still have found hives only in Whatcom County, WA, and they have successfully eliminated every one that they have found.”

North Carolina is host to several look-alike species to the Asian Giant Hornet, including the Eastern Cicada Killer wasp and the European Hornet. It is important for homeowners who suspect they have seen an Asian Giant Hornet to reference photos of these other insects. If you still decide to report what you’ve seen, your first call should be to your local cooperative extension center and not to NCDA.

Thankfully, North Carolina State University has developed a helpful guide for just that situation. Click here to see photos of the Asian Giant Hornet alongside other similar insects that actually do live in North Carolina.

If there is a question about the identity of the insect, try to take a photo and compare it to the guide. If it turns out to be the European hornet or one of our native species and the hive is too close for comfort, contact a local pest control service to safely remove the hive. If still unsure of the identification after consulting the guide, please send the photo or specimen to your county’s cooperative extension center.

The Spotted Lanternfly poses a real threat to North Carolina’s environment.
Courtesy of Lawrence Barringer

Self-identifying hornets helps plant protection experts focus on pests that do actually pose a real threat to North Carolina and its citizens, such as the Spotted Lanternfly. A dangerous pest which wreaks havoc on many kinds of trees, the Spotted Lanternfly has breeding populations in several nearby states, and early detection through citizen reports is vital to keeping it from establishing here in North Carolina.

As for the Asian Giant Hornets, it cannot be stated enough: they are not here and are unlikely to be here any time soon. European hornets are prolific in NC, and odds are that if you think you’ve seen an Asian Giant Hornet you’ve actually just seen one of our state’s natural insects going about its normal business.

Remember to be stay responsible – when dealing with any stinging insects, it is always best to stay at a safe distance and remain calm. By learning to recognize the types of insects that live here in NC, we can all stay a bit safer and sleep a bit sounder without the unnecessary fear of scary-sounding hornets.