Overview

Vespa mandarinia, or northern giant hornet (NGH), is an invasive pest from the tropical and temperate forests of eastern Asia. In the United States, it was first detected in Washington State in December 2019. In July 2022, the Entomological Society of America announced the common name change from "Asian giant hornet" to "northern giant hornet. You can read more about the name change here.

Northern giant hornet is not known to exist anywhere in the United States except for the far northwest area of Washington State. No sightings of northern giant hornet have been confirmed in New York State. 

This introduced pest is primarily a threat to European honey bees (Apis mellifera). However, it is a stinging insect and could potentially be a human health concern. Northern giant hornet is generally not aggressive to humans unless provoked. They will defend a nest or foraging site. Only the female hornets are capable of stinging. 

Identification

Northern giant hornet are the largest species of hornet and range in size from 25mm (approximately one inch) to 45mm (nearly two inches) long.

New York State is home to 416 species of bees and 90 species of wasps, for a total of 506 species that could possibly be mistaken for northern giant hornet. Only two of these species found in New York are close to the size range of the northern giant hornet: the eastern cicada killer and the European hornet.

Eastern Cicada Killer

The eastern cicada killer:

  • is found in the east and midwest,
  • can be up to two inches long,
  • has smaller head proportion to its body than NGH,
  • has different abdomen banding patterns than NGH,
  • has more of a brown to dark orange color thorax than NGH, and
  • has round eyes, unlike hornets.
A photo comparing the eastern cicada killer to the northern giant hornet.
(Right) northern giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) | (Left) eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus). USDA Photo by Hanna Royals.
European Hornet 

The European hornet: 

  • doesn’t occur west of the Rocky Mountains,
  • is roughly half the size of a northern giant hornet (one to one and a half inches long), and
  • has varied markings, typically including distinctive teardrop markings on the back of the abdomen, not uniform bands like the northern giant hornet. 
A photo comparing the European hornet to the northern giant hornet.
(Right) northern giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) | (Left) European hornet (Vespa crabro). USDA Photo by Hanna Royals.

 

Take Action

Beekeepers should be alert for northern giant hornet as they would likely be the first to notice signs of northern giant hornet if it were to be introduced in New York State. The best way to help experts identify a specimen is to take a photo or collect a dead specimen of the pest to help experts identify the insect. Only do this if it is safe.

Report suspected sightings of northern giant hornet.