Q. I found an Asian hornet. You should be warning people about these! They are terrible. It is all over the internet that they can dissolve skin!
Anonymous from Youngstown & Salem
A. The Asian hornet is not in Ohio. This story is all over Facebook and social media. There is even a group page about it. The stories are often started by someone who does not know insect identification and does not know that we do have some large insects here in the Mahoning Valley.
We even have an extension.org question where the person insisted this insect does exist here in the US. But the truth is that there have been no confirmed sightings of the giant Asian hornet (Vespa mandarinia) in North America. Nor are there reasons to believe this insect is in the Mahoning Valley.
The issue? False reports of the giant Asian hornet in the area plus the lack of understanding of insects that look somewhat like it. The people reporting this on social media are not entomologists and do not have the skills to correctly identify the insect at hand. The giant Asian hornet grows to nearly 2 inches in length, is black/brown with a bright yellow head and has a wingspan of nearly 3 inches. Thus, we need to understand the fake reports on social media and the two look-alikes we have in our area.
Cicada killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) – This native insect is about 1.5 inches long and is actually not a hornet. It emerges in July, coinciding with the annual dog-day cicadas that it eats. It has three bands with light-yellow to white markings on the abdomen, closest to the thorax. The end of the abdomen (what you might call the tail) is all black. The antenna are nearly all black. http://go.osu.edu/cicadakiller
European hornet (Vespa Crabro) – This insect is a close relative and gets to about 1.5 inches long. They are brown with yellow striping on their abdomen, most notably on the end away from the thorax. They are quite hairy, but not as hairy as a honeybee. They eat insects and make girdle twigs, especially on lilacs. http://go.osu.edu/europeanhornet
Both are common in the Mahoning Valley. But if the giant Asian hornet were here, beekeepers would most likely be the first to report it because they wil kill honey bees and have a tremendous impact on pollination of plants and crops.
We will have samples of both the cicada killer wasp and the European hornet at our clinic in Canfield and at Canfield Fair in building 44.
A terrific blog post about them with photos of all of these species is at: http://go.osu.edu/asianhornet
Eric Barrett is OSU Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call the office hotline at 330-533-5538 to submit your questions. Regular clinic hours are 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays.