PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Murder hornets are big, black and yellow – but so are a lot of other insects.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture said when it first announced the invasive insects, which are also known as Asian giant hornets, had been spotted near Blaine in December 2019, it started receiving thousands of reports from people all across the U.S. who believed they had also seen them.
People sent WSDA photos of queen bumblebees, American hornet moths, cicada killer wasps, great golden digger wasps, Jerusalem crickets, and various other insects.
What concerned WSDA most was that the panic over murder hornets was resulting in some people killing beneficial insects. Employees knew they had to come up with a way to help inform the public.
They tried a few different methods with limited success, but what really proved effective was posting images of various insects alongside Asian giant hornets on social media and using the hashtag #ThatisnotanAsiangianthornet.
Karla Salp, public engagement specialist for WSDA, said she decided on that hashtag because those were the words she and her colleagues said more than any other in 2020.
“People could really compare, very easily, what they had next to an Asian giant Hornet and it makes it a lot easier to see those differences,” Salp said.
For an entomologist, the differences between insect species are usually pretty obvious, Salp said. But for an untrained eye, the differences are sometimes hard to identify.
WSDA now has side-by-side photos on its website and shows the insect sizes to scale.
Salp said she hopes people don’t feel discouraged when they submit a photo that is not an Asian giant hornet. WSDA is only trying to help inform people, especially now, before queen bumblebees begin emerging in the spring. She said the WSDA has relied heavily on the reports they’ve received from the public over the last two years.
“We would not have had the success that we’ve had so far without the reports from the public,” Salp said. “If you see something that looks unusual, snap a photo and report that to your state’s invasive species managers.”
WSDA has eradicated four Asian giant hornet nests in Washington since they were discovered in 2019.
Asian giant hornets, which are invasive pests not native to the U.S., prey on other insects like honeybees. A small group of hornets can wipe out a honeybee hive in just hours, which is why WSDA is so determined to remove them from the area.