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Are There Asian and Japanese Giant Hornets in North Carolina?

If you are reading this, there’s a good chance the largest bee you have ever seen just buzzed you.  When you grabbed your phone and frantically searched online for “huge bee in North Carolina,” all the posts made you think it was an Asian or Japanese Giant Hornet.  You might have found yourself watching terrifying YouTube videos of this giant beast, which reminded you of a horror film from the 60’s – swarms of people running and screaming in fear as waves of huge bees buzz after them. If you’re new to the area, you may have started questioning why you moved to the Tar Heel State. After all, when you had Carolina in your mind, the last thing you imagined was dive-bombing horrors the size of a toaster oven!

Here’s the good news, that’s not what you saw.  What you most likely saw was the European Hornet or a Cicada Killer. You can relax, these pests really are gentle giants. Or, if not gentle, at least not deadly to the human species.

Despite having an intimidating name, the Cicada Killer or European Hornet that you likely spotted is rather innocuous. Often mistaken for a Japanese Giant Hornet or Asian Hornet, the reality is far less frightening. Here’s all you need to know about these wasps, including an overview of why there’s no need to flee the state.

What It Isn’t

You may have seen the news reports from China reporting mass deaths from the Asian giant hornet. While they certainly are scary, you can sleep well knowing that they are not plaguing North Carolina residents. In fact, they aren’t anywhere in the Western hemisphere. To the contrary, the world’s largest hornet is native to tropical and temperate East Asia.

This winged beast will track down and dismember prey in an effort to feed the troops. Never one to self-sacrifice, they also take dripping tree sap or the sugary meat of ripe fruit to replenish their own sagging energy.

These stinging insects are huge. While the worker bees only grow to 1.4 inches, the queens expand to a startling 2.2 inches with a nearly 3-inch wingspan. Not exactly what you want to see as you close your eyes for the night.

Fortunately, you’ll never see them in or around your home in North Carolina.

What It Is

Though you can still alarm your friends with tales of encountering a huge bee, you won’t be able to say it was a Japanese hornet. Instead, the gigantic buzzing likely came from either a Cicada Killer or a European hornet.

True to their name, Cicada Killers do, in fact, kill cicadas. They do so by paralyzing the cicada with a venomous sting, transplanting the insect elsewhere, then laying eggs beneath it. When the larvae hatch, it begins to eat the cicada. With a twisted sense of humor, the larvae take care to ensure the cicada stays alive long enough for it to spin a cocoon, in which, the larvae will transform into an adult wasp.

Cicada Killers really could care less about you. It’s not that you aren’t terrific, of course, but their attention is more focused on other Cicada Killers or cicadas.

Similar in appearance to the Cicada Killers, European hornets range in size from 1 inch to an inch and a half in length. Brown with yellow stripes on its abdomen, the hornet can sting, though rarely does unless they feel threatened. With little concern about humans, they feast on grasshoppers, bees, and yellow jackets. For this, many people consider them beneficial.

Hornet nests are often difficult to control and can pose a safety concern. That’s why it’s advisable to seek out professional help to get rid of them. Clegg’s Pest Control offers both residential and commercial wasp and pest control services throughout North and South Carolina. Contact Clegg’s pest management professionals today at (888) 972-0366.


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