Mistaken identity? Some Texans think mostly-harmless cicada killer wasps are Asian giant hornets

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Mostly-harmless Cicada killer wasps that emerge in Texas every summer are being confused for so-called Asian “murder hornets” that have caused panic in the United States, an entomologist has said.

She said there’s no need to worry here in Texas because the giant hornets, which can reach up to two inches in length, have not been found in the U.S. outside of Washington state.

Despite their name, cicada killer wasps are mostly harmless to humans – their name comes from their hunting of cicadas.

Entomologist Wizzie Brown said people have been emailing her with concerns about the cicada killers, which are being mistaken for the Asian giant hornets due to their large size and distinctive coloring.

Cicada killer wasps look menacing but are largely harmless (Courtesy Wizzie Brown)

In fact, they are “real common” in Texas at this time of year, according to Brown, an extension program specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

“The majority of what I’ve been getting lately are the cicada killer wasps, which are a concern for everybody,” she said. “Everybody’s thinking they are the Asian giant hornets.”

In Texas, cicada killers begin emerging just before cicadas at the start of the summer.

“They are a larger species of wasp, so everybody sees them and they know that the Asian giant hornet is a large wasp, so they’re concerned that they might have that here,” Brown added.

FILE – In this April 23, 2020, photo provided by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, a researcher holds a dead Asian giant hornet in Blaine, Wash. (Karla Salp/Washington State Department of Agriculture via AP)

According to Brown, adult female cicada killers hunt a cicada, sting it to cause paralysis and carry it back to their tunnel. They then lay an egg on the cicada, and when the egg hatches, the wasp larva feeds on the cicadas.

Asian giant hornets first appeared in the US in 2019 and earned notoriety for their “murder hornet” nickname.

While they are capable of painful stings, the hornets are far more likely to impact bee populations, as they can kill entire colonies in a short time.

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