OSU Extension develops publication to identify, report Asian giant hornet

{child_byline}By GEORGE PLAVEN

Capital Press{/child_byline}

While the Asian giant hornet remains outside Oregon, state agriculture officials are encouraging residents to stay vigilant and report possible sightings.

The aggressive hornet, with its large size and venomous sting, was first discovered at several locations along the Washington-British Columbia border in 2019. Since then, efforts have been underway to find and eradicate hornets nests before they can spread.

Despite a number of false identifications, there have been no confirmed findings in Oregon. Andony Melathopoulos, pollinator health specialist for Oregon State University Extension Service, said he fielded 30 inquiries about possible Asian giant hornet sightings — 10 times as many reports as he gets for other invasive species.

In all cases, Melathopoulos said they were either yellow jackets or another easy-to-confuse insect, like the western cicada killer or sawflies. But that does not mean Asian giant hornets couldn’t become established in the Willamette Valley if left uncontrolled.

{p class=”p1”}”It would be prime habitat,” Melathopoulos said. “This hornet looks like it would do really well here.”

{p class=”p1”}Last year, OSU Extension Service published a 5-page manual detailing the Asian giant hornet’s appearance, distribution and life cycle to help residents correctly identify the species.

{p class=”p1”}Asian giant hornets measure roughly 1.5 inches in length with a 3-inch wingspan, and are noted for their large yellow heads and yellow-and-black striped abdomen.

{p class=”p1”}”These are crazy big critters,” Melathopoulos said. “The whole head is distinctly yellow. It has kind of the classic wasp-looking stripes on the back of its body.”

{p class=”p1”}Though painful, Melathopoulos said the hornet’s sting is rare. Unlike yellow jackets, which are common in cities like Portland and a regular nuisance at outdoor picnics, the Asian giant hornet is more likely to stick close to the forest.

{p class=”p1”}Melathopoulos credits public concern about the hornets to extensive media coverage and its menacing, albeit sensationalized nickname, the “murder hornet.”

{p class=”p1”}In Washington, more than 4 million people have viewed the state Department of Agriculture’s “Asian Giant Hornet Watch” Facebook page since December 2019. There have been 31 total hornet detections, including 16 from the public.

{p class=”p1”}Where the hornet does pose a potentially serious threat is to honey bee hives, which fuel $20 billion worth of U.S. crop production annually, according to the American Beekeeping Federation. Just 8-10 Asian giant hornets can decimate a honey bee colony in a matter of hours, Melathopoulos said.

{p class=”p1”}”The commercial honey bee colonies will be vulnerable, as they have been in Asia,” he said. “You may get lower fruit sets and lower yields, which for a highly competitive global market means a lot, actually.”

{p class=”p1”}The public can play a big role in helping to keep the Asian giant hornet out of Oregon by keeping their eyes peeled, Melathopoulos said. But what he doesn’t want is for people to go around spraying insecticides with reckless abandon.

{p class=”p1”}”Nobody should use insecticides without talking to somebody, a master gardener or extension agent, before you react,” he said. “Don’t just take matters into your own hands and start spraying indiscriminately. Call us first.”

{p class=”p1”}Photos of possible hornets should be submitted to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, or OSU Extension Service through its “Ask an Expert” feature. Melathopoulos said the Asian giant hornet is unlikely to become established in Eastern Oregon due to the cold winters.

{p class=”p1”}”They should take a minute to familiarize themselves with it by using the Extension publication and keep their eyes peeled for possible hornet introductions into Oregon,” Melathopoulos said.

{child_related_content}{child_related_content_item}{child_related_content_style}Glance Box{/child_related_content_style}{child_related_content_title}Report possible sightings{/child_related_content_title}{child_related_content_content}

To report possible sightings of the Asian giant hornet in Oregon, send photos to the Oregon Department of Agriculture at the following link:

Photos can also be sent to Oregon State University Extension Service:

{p class=”p1”}Do not approach nests and remain a safe distance from foraging hornets to avoid being stung.

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