SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, May 5, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Gephardt Daily carried a story about “giant murder hornets,” over the weekend, and we heard from Utahns telling us they’ve seen the huge wasp here in the Beehive State.
But, did they really?
The story cites agriculture authorities in Washington State saying these highly venomous wasps have been found near Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Residents in Blaine, Washington near the Canadian border, also reported sightings of the giant Asian hornet.
These ghastly critters live up to their name, using powerful pincer-like jaws to decapitate their favorite prey, honey bees, before feeding the bees’ carcasses to their own voracious, newly hatched young.
A single hornet can kill 300 worker bees in an hour. Just a few of them can decimate an entire hive in the matter of a day.
As far as contact with people goes, giant Asian murder hornets usually mind their own business. If one does attack, however, it can deliver an intensely painful, paralyzing sting.
Gephardt Daily reader Tyler Russell, from Tooele, says he and his friends have seen those Asian giant hornets here in Utah. Russell says, “The old smelter ruins below the Tooele county dump is a popular area for shooting. My friends and I have seen them out there for at least the last three years.”
I, too, have encountered what sure looked like a murder hornet outside my home in Sandy. It turned up dead in a yellow wasp trap about two years ago. When I went to empty the trap, I saw this hornet-looking insect much larger than the others. It had a weird and eerie yellow face. I mentioned it to my wife, and threw it away with the rest of the yellow jackets, dead in the trap.
Did I really see a murder hornet? Did our reader in Tooele see one?
I contacted entomologist Stephen Stanko at the Utah Department of Agriculture.
“We have not found any giant Asian hornets in Utah,” he told me. “There are very sizeable ones that you might think look like the pictures we’ve seen of the giant Asian hornet. But we have not found any in Utah.”
Stanko says the large ones we might see in the state include the slender Wood Wasp and California Cicada Killer. He sent me pictures of the large, colorful creatures. Both looked like they could pack a punch, but in reality, only the female cicada killer can sting, and usually only does so when she feels threatened.
I forwarded the photos to Tyler Russell, and he said the pictures are not what he saw in Tooele, either. “I know what I saw was the Asian version, or a very close relative,” he said.
Russell says he’ll be heading back out to that spot near the old smelter ruins and try to trap one of those wasps. When he does, we’ll take it to the Utah Department of Agriculture to see just what sort of wasp that is.
Stanko says he believes it will be quite a few years before we see a giant Asian murder hornet nest in Utah, if ever.
He says, with any luck, Utah’s altitude won’t support the hornet and will keep the nasty critters at bay.