Asian or European? Identifying a large hornet

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ala. – A man in Fayetteville captured what he believed to be an Asian giant hornet, commonly known as a murder hornet, last Friday. Alex Ottley said he wasn’t concerned with being stung, despite how large the insect was.

Ottley reached out to WHNT News 19 for us to check it out. He said he’s excited to find out what the insect is — even if it’s determined it’s not a murder hornet.

“Yeah so I was just hanging out on the back porch and um, it just really caught my eye,” said Ottley. “So I sprayed it with some hornet spray, and um, just put a jar over it and capped it. I don’t know if that’s what this could be, or not but, the markings on it, and just like I said the size is definitely what I felt like set it apart. We’ll see if I’m the first person to catch a murder hornet in the Southeast. We’ll see uh, what the experts have to say.”

Well, the experts did weigh in and it is not an Asian giant hornet.

We reached out to an entomologist with Auburn University. Dr. Charles ray confirmed that what Alex caught was not a murder hornet but a European hornet, which is actually common to Alabama.

Asian giant hornets, or Vespa mandarinia, are the world’s largest hornet, measuring 1.5 – 2 inches in length.

Alabama Extension entomologist Katelyn Kesheimer said the giant hornets have a very unique coloration that makes them distinguishable from other hornets.

“Their large head is orange or yellow with prominent eyes, and they have a black and yellow-striped abdomen,” she said.

European hornets and Cicada killer wasps closely resemble Asian giant hornets and could easily cause misidentification.

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