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No, that’s probably not a ‘murder hornet’ you’re seeing in Virginia

10 News took your photos to a Virginia Tech expert to find out

VIRGINIA – Stories of massive insects, nicknamed ‘murder hornets,' are all the buzz online due to growing fears the flying "killers” could be in our own backyards in Southwest Virginia.

10 News received multiple photos from our viewers of insects they have spotted, wondering if the potentially dangerous species has arrived in Virginia.

However, Virginia Tech bug expert Dr. Tim Kring said, not yet.

“Do I expect it to be in Virginia now? Absolutely not,” Kring said. "Is it possible that it’ll get here? Yes, eventually. It is possible if it establishes in the U.S. and North America.”

Kring is the head of Virginia Tech’s Department of Entomology and said the murder hornets, are actually called Asian giant hornets. Outside of Asia, they have only been found in British Columbia, Canada and Washington State.

The first nest was discovered and destroyed in the fall of 2019 in British Columbia. There are only two confirmed cases of the hornets in the U.S. Both were found dead in Washington State in December of 2019.

“There’s nothing moving now. The recent news is not recent finds,” said Kring.

10 News reached out to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. A spokesperson told WSLS:

“We received the two (and only confirmed) specimens in December 2019. They were confirmed the same month through DNA analysis.”

10 News sent the viewer photos to Kring to examine.

“None of them are Asian giant hornets," said Kring. “We do have a lot of insects that look superficially like it, but are much smaller.”

Instead, Kring said they are other species commonly found in Virginia: the European hornet or the Bald-faced hornet.

Asian giant hornets have:

  • large orange/yellow head with prominent eyes
  • black and yellow striped abdomen

They form nests in the ground and are at least 1.5-2 inches long.

Asian giant hornets eat honeybees, which are already threatened. The insect doesn’t usually target people or pets, though the sting would be painful and multiple stings could be deadly.

“Just like any wasp or bee, you could get an anaphylactic reaction if you’re allergic to them,” Kring said. "It would hurt more because they are bigger and stick more venom in there.”

Kring recommended that anyone who sees a hornet or a nest should stay away and report it to local authorities.

This year is a cicada year in Virginia and Kring warned that people may see cicada killers, a type of wasp, that may look like an Asian giant hornet.


About the Author:

Lindsey joined the WSLS 10 team as a reporter in February 2019 and is thrilled to call Roanoke her new home!