Asian giant hornet on tree trunk

The buzz around the Asian giant hornet and what you need to know

The New York Times called it a “killer,” some researchers refer to it as the “murder hornet,” and TMZ said in their online article, “The hornets kill people too, BTW,” inserting a quote from The New York Times that claims up to 50 people get stung by them and die each year… failing to mention that those people live in Japan. 

As your local pest control experts, we sat down with one of our top entomologists, Dr. Nancy Troyano, to gain insight about the Asian giant hornet. We share those learnings with you in this article, providing clarity about the hornet’s presence in the U.S. and to ease your fears about any impending invasions.

In response to all the buzz about the Asian giant hornet’s presence in the U.S., Dr. Troyano says,

“When news stories break about invasive and potentially harmful insects, it can be very scary.  However, it is important that we remain calm and collect the facts. In this case, finding a few specimens in Washington state does not mean that these hornets have become established in the United States. Additionally, all of this publicity surrounding the Asian giant hornet promotes hypervigilance. There are many state and local authorities as well as community members now on the lookout for these insects. Early detection will help to stop their spread.”

Knowing the facts about the Asian giant hornet

The Asian giant hornet is the largest hornet species in the world. Adults measure between 1.5 to 2 inches in length with a 3-inch wingspan. They are aggressive, but no more than a bald-faced hornet or other stinging insects that will instinctually defend their nest. Basically, they aren’t seeking out humans to attack, unless they feel threatened. They follow similar behavior patterns to those of other stinging insects. The queen comes out of hibernation and establishes her nest in early spring. The workers become more active during the late summer and early fall months (usually July-October) as they forage for food.

See how the size of the Asian giant hornet compares to that of other stinging insects, below:

graphic comparing the size of multiple stinging insects

Honey bee populations at risk

The biggest threat that Asian giant hornets pose in the U.S. is to our honey bee populations. European honey bees do not have the ability to defend their hives against the Asian giant hornet as the Japanese honeybees do by essentially baking the marker hornet to death. 30 Asian giant hornets can completely decimate a hive of 30,000 European honey bees in a matter of a couple of hours – a valid concern for beekeepers and food suppliers who rely on the pollination of honey bees.

Where did the Asian giant hornet come from?

The Asian giant hornet, as its name suggests, comes from Asia and is found in Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, Laos, Cambodia, India, Vietnam, China, and the southeast part of Asian Russia. It is fairly new to the U.S. — discovered in Washington in December 2019.

Where in the U.S. have the Asian giant hornets been spotted?

To date, there have been positive identifications in Washington. According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, they have also been spotted in two locations in British Columbia.

What is the risk of being stung by an Asian giant hornet?

The risk of an Asian giant hornet sting is no greater than that of any other stinging insect’s sting. However, what does differentiate the Asian giant hornet’s sting from the sting of a bee, yellow jacket or wasp is the stinger size and venom volume. The quarter-inch stinger can penetrate through several layers of clothing, damaging your skin and rendering an ordinary beekeeping suit useless. Also, because they deliver a larger dose of venom when they do sting, it tends to be more toxic than that of other stinging insects, which means the sting will likely cause more pain.

What type of traps can catch Asian giant hornets?

Standard over-the-counter hornet traps do not have large enough openings to accommodate the Asian giant hornets. The Washington State Department of Agriculture published 8 things to know about trapping Asian giant hornets, which covers important topics such as how to make homemade traps, when to set up traps, how often to check traps, the possibility of being stung, how to report catches, and what to do if you encounter a nest.

How do we prevent Asian giant hornets from spreading?

The state of Washington is being diligent about locating and eradicating Asian giant hornet nests. Therefore, the likelihood of them establishing a strong presence in the U.S. is low. If you encounter an Asian giant hornet or spot a nesting site, report it to your local department of agriculture. Several Washington counties are on high alert and have enlisted beekeepers and volunteers to survey areas, setting traps in hopes of eradicating the hornets and keeping them from spreading. They are also talking about tracking live hornets back to their nests.

Learn more about WSDA’s program to eradicate them, here.

What do Asian giant hornets eat? 

The queen survives on tree sap in the early spring before a nest has been established. Once the nest and colony are established, they feed on other insects. Honeybee hives are a frequent target for Asian giant hornets, as they offer a lot of food for the least amount of effort. After the kill, hornets are able to extract honeybee parts, larvae and pupae from the hive.

Where do Asian giant hornets build hives? 

Asian giant hornets primarily build their hives underground, in abandoned animal burrows and in hollows in trees.

Western Exterminator: Experienced in stinging insect control

If you find a stinging insect nest or hive, do not take any chances. Trying to knock down the nest or using other DIY methods can backfire, putting you at risk of stings. At Western Exterminator, we effectively and safely treat and remove stinging insect nests and hives. We also seal up any entry points that have allowed stinging insects to gain access to your home, which helps to prevent their return. Our Western Exterminator stinging insect specialists will get rid of the stinging insects around your property and use preventative measures to deter them from returning. Contact us online or call 1-866-623-9842 today for help with stinging insect control.

Tiffany Tenley

As a Marketing Content Manager, Tiffany has come to love and appreciate the diverse and complex world of pests—good, bad and ugly. Not only does she research and write about them, she admits to having eaten a few crickets on some cheese-laden nachos. When she's not working, Tiffany enjoys spending time with her family, exploring new restaurants, concert-going, reading, writing and traveling.



Call your local branch


or fill out your details and we will call you back

Bill pay and login