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Native Idaho insect commonly mistaken for Murder Hornet

Three wasps, one being the western cicada killer and the two in the middle and on the right the Asian giant hornet
Specimens provided by Colorado State University’s C.P. Gillette Museum

The Asian Giant Hornet, nicknamed the Murder Hornet, was first seen in North America two years ago. Since then, Idahoans have reported seeing the insect but it is a case of mistaken identity.

The black and orange striped Murder Hornet can be up to 2 inches long, making it the world's largest wasp. It's equipped with large mandibles and a powerful sting. And being an invasive species, it's known for destroying native honeybee colonies.

Since its first sighting in Washington state in 2020, the Idaho Insect Identification website has received more reported sightings.

"We just want people to know that this is not the Asian giant Hornet," said Jason Thomas, a University of Idaho Entomologist in Minidoka County.

What people are actually seeing is the Cicada Killer Wasp.

"It's a native species that are here, and they're actually beneficial because they go and they hunt cicadas," Thomas said. "They can go hunt other insects, and they also help to do some pollination."

The Cicada Killer Wasp is a docile wasp. It's smaller than the murder hornet, but close in size. The wasp has black and yellow bands with orange wings.

Thomas says the native wasps are large and make a loud noise when flying around, which can make some people afraid of being stung. But, they are not aggressive.

Thomas helps run the identification website that helps the public, especially farmers, identify insects.

As far as he knows, there are no Murder Hornets in Idaho. If anyone sees an insect they are concerned about, send a picture to the Idaho Insect Identification website.

I'm Richard and I'm a summer newsroom intern. Currently, I am doing stories on a variety of subjects to get a better understanding of different beats. However, I would love to cover stories about diverse issues.