Q. What is this giant bee? Is it the flesh-eating Asian Hornet I just saw on TV?
Shannon from Austintown
A. This insect is not the flesh-eating Asian Hornet. We have not found the Asian Hornet in our area. But this insect is huge and sometimes scary when you first encounter it on your deck, in the field or out in the backyard.
At first, most of us would expect reports of a “very large bee” or “very large yellow jacket” to be a cicada killer wasp.
The cicada killer wasp does, in fact, look like a yellow jacket, only it’s two to three times larger. The dark yellow or dark gold bands on the abdomen do not connect on the cicada killer wasp, though. The cicada killer is generally docile and not easily provoked, but it can sting. The males are more aggressive, but “all bark and no bite” because they cannot sting. They generally feed on flower nectar, but as the name suggests, it catches and stings adult cicadas (known by most as locusts). It uses these cicadas as food for developing larvae. And it nests in the ground.
But this insect is not a cicada killer wasp. In consultation with our expert entomologist at Ohio State University we determined it is a European hornet. They can be more than 1 inch long. (The sample brought to us was 1.25 inches.) It is “more robust and has more hair on the thorax and abdomen,” according to Virginia Tech.
It nests in paperlike structures above the ground, but not as a hanging like other hornets. It is more active at night. Some of the calls to the office this week noted that something was eating bark off trees. In fact, these insects will strip bark off trees — and lilacs — to use as nesting material.
In general, they will not sting unless you provoke them.
If you do get a nest in your house or building, contact a professional exterminator.
Other control options are listed at go.osu.edu/europeanhornet and go.osu.edu/eurohornet.
Eric Barrett is the Ohio State University Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call the office at 330-533-5538 from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays to submit your questions.