Deadly Asian Giant Hornet Spotted in Arlington Heights, Illinois: Not Cicada Killer Wasp (Not Official)

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Two Asian Giant Hornets or Japanese Giant Hornets transfer food — trophallaxis in a Wikipedia file photo. The Japanese Giant Hornet is the largest hornet in the world and is native to tropical Eastern Asia, and is the most lethal animal in Japan. The picture matches exactly a lone insect that was flying in Arlington Heights on Sunday, July 29, 2012 west of St. Viator High School (SOURCE: Vespa mandarinia japonica, Author: KENPEI CC BY-SA 3.0/GFDL,Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.1 Japan License).

UPDATE: Since many people have sent us comments and e-mails regarding Asian Giant Hornets, we’ve created a Facebook page to help track sightings, and report experiences with Asian Giant Hornets or other bees, wasps, and hornets. If you’re interested, please LIKE

Wasps, hornets and bees are in the news this summer. Last week bees swarmed Des Plaines Fire Department firefighter/paramedics as they rescued a man with an ankle injury about 5:54 p.m. on July 25, 2012. The firefighter/paramedics and their patient were stung by the bees as the victim was rescued up an embankment near Golf Road and River Road.

Arlington Heights Park District has alerted park goers to be alert for Cicada Killer Wasps, especially in sandboxes. They are black with splashes of yellow and can grow to up to almost two inches. Females have a stinger, but are not aggressive unless disturbed. Males have aggressive territorial behavior, but do not have a stinger.

Sunday, an Asian Giant Hornet or Japanese Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia) was spotted at a residence west of St. Viator High School. The insect was at least two inches long and as thick as a human thumb. It had a wide orange-yellow head with large eyes, and distinct yellow-orange and brownish-black bands on its body — like a bee. The Asian Giant Hornet patrolled around a house in the front yard — occasionally hovering and landing on shrubbery. The Asian Giant Hornet studied a yellow-jacket nest that was recently destroyed with Raid wasp spray on the property. Yes, the giant hornets attack Yellow Jacket nests.

A Cicada Killer Wasp with yellow splashes is darker than the Japanese Giant Hornet or Asian Giant Hornet (By Bill Buchanan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service –, Public Domain, Link).

The European Hornet queen (Vespa crabro) is about one-to-two inches long — males and workers are smaller. The body segment is half brownish-black and half yellow, but its appearance is similar to the Asian Giant Hornet.

A large European Hornet filmed in Denmark. Notice how it moves backwards, and does not attack. The camera operator was at risk of attack, however. European Hornets are more likely to walk backwards and flee from humans, compared to Asian Giant Hornets, which will attack humans.

National Geographic produced a video showing Asian Giant Hornets in a massacre of honeybees in their hive. The giant hornets look exactly like the lone scout that was spotted in central Arlington Heights on Sunday, July 29, 2012 at about 3:00 p.m. and about 6:30 p.m. (See National Geographic Video of Asian giant hornet massacre of bees)

PAYBACK: Evolutionary adapted Japanese honeybees that have learned to defend their bee hive.

The Asian Giant Hornet is a ruthless predator that kills other hornet species, yellow jackets, bees, large insects and mantises. The Asian Giant Hornet often scouts out honey bee hives and marks the hive with a pheromone. The Asian Giant Hornet is known to return with about 30 more Asian Giant Hornet to attack the hive. A video by National Geographic has captured such an attack. About 30 hornets are known to kill about 30,000 bees in their bee hive in about three hours. The goal of the Asian Giant Hornet is to attack the larvae of the bees, which are used as feed for their own nests.

In Japan, the Asian Giant Hornets kill the bees by splitting them in half with their mandibles. Japanese beekeepers know that the Asian Giant Hornets usually attack after the middle of August.

The toxicity of the Asian Giant Hornet venom is actually lower than a honeybee, but the volume of venom is greater in the Asian Giant Hornet. Asian Giant Hornets are known to cause about 40 deaths per year in Japan.

A forum on Need to kill Asian Hornets and comments on a Giant Hornet article includes reports of Asian Giant Hornets in Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. However, most or all of the sightings might be European Hornets. One of the pictures from a contributor from Tennessee shows a European Hornet. Last Fall posters reported aggressive infestations in recent years. In Georgia a poster reports he doesn’t go a day without seeing one of the giant hornets. One poster reports the insects flying into lights at night, and an infestation in a chimney with about 200 hornets getting inside the house. Many posters scoff at the comments that the insects aren’t aggressive. Some posters report that the large hornets are not affected by wasp/hornet spray.

I live in Richmond Virginia, & my parents live in King William Virginia. One day while visiting my folks, I was standing in their yard, talking to my mother with my arms crossed, when I heard what sounded like a rc airplane in a full on nosedive. I looked up just in time to see a humming bird sized hornet, identical to the picture of the Asian giant hornet, coming straight at me. It stung me on top of my ear & I have NEVER experienced such pain in my life, before, or since. The pain lasted for hours.

I am pierced & tattood all over, none of them hurt. This hurt. I cursed & cried like a little baby right in front of my mother. I am not allergic to bee or wasp stings, yet my entire face swelled up to extremely scary proportions. I have seen European hornets & cicada killers before. Nope, not it. Plus this thing was huge, & quite obviously, extremely aggressive, since I was doing NOTHING. Standing in the yard with my arms crossed. Not messing with a nest, not cutting grass, not doing jack. I have easily seen a dozen since that incident, & NO ONE will convince me they are not here. Yes it gets hot in VA, but NEVER over 100-105 degrees, so try again with the “It gets too hot here” B.S.. They ARE here.

In August 2009 tourists were warned to stay clear of Asian hornets that were colonizing in France. The insects are believed to have arrived in a shipment of pottery from China in 2004. One nest was discovered in 2004 and 2,000 were discovered in 2007. Nest have been reported in trees, in sewers and in the ground.

The pain of the Asian Giant Hornet is described as a hot nail piercing the skin. While the pain of a yellow jacket sting last about four minutes, the pain of an Asian Giant Hornet last about four hours with instant swelling.

Hunting Asian giant hornets underground known as ‘Tu Fong’ or Dirt Hornet. The YouTube publisher was accompanying hornet hunters collecting the insects for food and beverage purposes. The victim describes waves of pain while feeling nauseous and faint.

The previous warm Fall, warm Winter, and warm Spring have increased insect populations. Wasps and hornets have had more time to be active and to build their nests. Take extra caution looking for hornet nests and wasp nests on your property or whenever you are spending time outside. Wasps and hornets build nests in trees, in bushes, under eaves of homes, and in the ground — especially at the base of shrubs.

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  1. Interesting – just a week ago I found a dead hornet/wasp that was bigger than anything I’d ever seen at a park in Des Plaines near Golf and Mt. Prospect Rd.

  2. Very intersting article! …. Seems like a very dangerous species that many people don’t know about. I am glad somebody wrote about this.

  3. I noticed one of these in my back yard a few weeks ago and have been scouring the internet and polling friends trying to figure out what it was. This is it! I’m near Forest View Rec Center.

  4. I live on the west side of Des Plaines. I have two of the Killer Cicada’s burrowing in my back yard. I took pictures of them – they definately look like the Killer Cicada’s not the Asian wasp listed above. These two are about 1 1/2 inches long but are about 1/3 inch wide. I hope they are the Cicada Killer Wasps.

  5. These things are very aggresive and very fast! I live in Athens Il. and have killed 2 in 2 weeks. I have never seen such a large hornet in my life!

  6. Not to be dense nor rude but “who” (with credentials-PhD in entomolgy)has made the verification that what people have seen really are the giant hornet and a case of mistaken identity?

  7. Ive killed around 10 of them over the past 2 months. They have always been in pairs. The strange thing is, they have only been seen at night. Over the last 3 weeks, they seemed to have disappeared. I’ve heard of 4-5 other cases of them being in my area. (Central Alabama) I have never seen these hornets until this year.

  8. We live in Chester, VA and my husband was stung by 2 of these when cutting the grass. We have seen them in our lilac bush on the west side of our house. They looked like they were eating the bark of the lilac bush or the sap underneath. How do we get rid of these things? I am afraid for my grandchildren and the neighbors children.

  9. I live in eastern Virginia, very near Richmond but still a ways into the country. In the past, we have had wasp nests and bees nests around our yard, even hornets. My father is extremely allergic to bee stings, so much so that he has to carry an epinephrine shot with him while he works in the yard. This being said, I obviously am not unfamiliar with all manner of flying insects. Last summer, I noticed these strange, HUGE flying insects – looked like giant bees or hornets- flying around the lights near where I park my car. I work retail so sometimes I don’t get home until really late. Sometimes there would be about 30 of them. As soon as I opened my car door, they would start flying at me. I had to spend the night in my car once because I was too afraid to get out. They have large bodies, 2 inches long with yellow heads and a distinctive cluster of eyes and there are yellow stripes around it’s brown body. I have scoured the internet and compared photos with ones my dad has had to kill just so I could enter my own home. They are Japanese Giant Hornets. Everyone who keeps insisting that these are Cicada Wasps and aren’t aggressive is in serious denial or is trying to cover up for whatever MAJOR screwup took place to get these things here. It’s only gotten worse this year. I’ve had to cut my hours at work so that I don’t come home to find my home swarming and get stung. In all the reports I’ve read (and I’ve gone to an actual library to find books on these things) 2 stings is enough to kill a person. What could happen to my father? My pets? Children in my family who visit?! I am a prisoner in my own home. These things do no respond whatsoever to yard or area treatments for infestations. I don’t know what to do and everyone keeps telling us that we’re overreacting, that what we have seen isn’t what we have seen… When is someone going to start trying to do something about this?
    -Trapped in Quinton, Alanna

  10. I live in Bristow VA and the last 2 weeks my house has had numerous visits by the giant hornet. They hang out by the porch lights at night and my fruiting Dogwood Tree during the day. Do they ever sleep?

  11. I was bombarded by one of these wasps. It landed it my coffee cup while I was on the balcony. Right away I realized it was not a cicada killer. The cicada killer’s yellow pattern is very different

  12. I live in Pulaski Co., Virginia. We have land against Jefferson Nat’l Forest. Thankfully I’ve yet to encounter the Japanese Hornet, but we have the European Hornets all over the place. Several years back I was hiking my land and discovered a nest of them high in a hollow tree. Least 20 ft up. Watched with my binoculars (after backing away a number of yards) and observed several would stand guard around the hole while the hornets that were going to and fro passed by. Those returning would touch antenae with those guarding.

    Following year the nest was gone. Although they give me the creeps so far they are NOT aggressive as I’m reading these Japanese hornets are. That said the European Hornets ARE curious and will buzz around me. Unnerving as crap I may add.

  13. I live in Annandale Virginia. Outside the window last summer I saw something which terrified me, I tried to take a picture of it but I couldn’t focus fast enough. What I saw was this wasp, they are in Annandale VA too. I have since moved away and don’t want to go back there for many reasons, the new wasp adds yet another one.

  14. I live in Maryland and I just had one of these fly into my home this weekend. Where can I take it to be analyzed to confirm what it is?

  15. The Japanese are of course more aware of this species than anyone in the US. Any cargo shipped to the West coast from Japan, or flown in a plane, comes from Japanese port cities, where there are no hornets. The only feasible way a real specimen could get over here is if someone in Japan intentionally brought one/some. In spite of the relative small size this wouldn’t be easy. I continue thinking that if there have been any, they’re extraordinarily rare. Away from their colony a lone hornet won’t last long. I’ve seen a 438 cell red wasp nest from East Texas that was cautiously torched at night in a deer stand. It’s known that 30 red wasp stings are fatal to a large human. Worry about what’s already here first. But, what if someone wanted revenge for Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Be also advised that reports of cicada killer stings being mild are from instances in which the wasp recently unloaded its venom sac and it was near empty when it hit the claimants. A fully charged CK can have you in pain for a week.

  16. I have seen Japanese Giant Hornets in the Chevy Chase suburbs of Washington DC on many occasions. As a child, I actually participated in the killing of one. I kept the specimen around for a couple of weeks but no one could identify it for me, including a couple science teachers I brought it to.
    Since that time, I have seen many others. Typically though, I find them around twilight, near trees that are in the process of dripping sap.
    I have handled two in my life and found them rather passive for a hornet species, compared to say a yellow jacket.

  17. @ Cardinal News

    Not many people, I’m sure, but I do and a google image search of japanese giant hornet will reveal others as well.

  18. Just today we saw two in our yard and sprayed and killed one of them. They are Giant japaneese hornets and they are very common here. We live very south Virginia almost to the NC border on hwy 95. They are very scary and dangerous.

  19. It was about 2-years ago that me and a friend of mine were. Passing out fliers for this church in buffalo, n.y., on July, when she had stopped to talk to a couple neighbors of hers when we were standing under- neath a tree, then all of a sudden something came flying down, and it was big as my index finger ( it was about 2- inches long!! ) and it made a loud buzzing sound, as well had brownish and yellow stripes on its abdomen, ( SCARRED THE LIVING DAYLIGHT’S OUTTA ME TO THIS DAY…) I know for sure that it was some type of foreign species of hornets because I wasn’t expecting to see anything like that were I live at, Then I had did some research on the web, and had seen these stories about these insects and how aggressive they are, and every time I think of them just gives me chills up to my spine, I sure hope to never see one again, or be on the receiving side of one…

  20. Seriously?? These are regular hornets I saw growing up in Germany. First of all, they are not aggressive and actually very peaceful if you follow a few rules:
    1) Don’t go near their nest as they are over-protective of it.
    2) Don’t find yourself in their flight path.
    3) Don’t make quick movements or swat at them away when you hear one buzzing by. If you leave it alone, it will leave you alone.
    All this fear mongering about deadly venom is simply not true. Their venom is far less toxic than that of some ant species or even the honey bees or wasps. For a quick comparison, the harvester ant has a LD50 measurement of just 0.12 mg per kg of body weight which actually makes this the most toxic insect. By comparison, honey bee venom has an LD50 measure of 2.8, a yellowjacket’s venom has an LD50 of 3.5 per kg of body weight, and the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica) has an LD50 of 4.1, thus much lower in toxicity compared to the harvester ant. To give you a better understanding, just 12 stings from the venomous harvester ant were enough to take out a 2.0 kg animal. People die from bee/wasp/hornet stings mostly if they are very young, very old or if they suffer from medical conditions, for instance, poor blood circulation due to various diseases, or if they are simply allergic the venom and an insect sting from the above mentioned species would induce anaphylaxis. I only have a bachelor in biology but please know, before you scare people without knowing your facts, perhaps cracking open a book or two and conducting some adequate research would be noble (and no, wikipedia does not count as a credible source).

  21. TXFireChick: You lose credibility by calling this a regular hornet. You also lose credibility by not mentioning the volume of venom that the Asian Giant Hornet or the European Hornet are capable of delivering. You also lose credibility by using the phrase “simply allergic” when referring to anaphylaxis … wouldn’t be too wise of you to emphasize this technical banter to the family of a child that just died of respiratory arrest from anaphylactic shock. The family won’t really care if it was a Lethal Dose (LD) or an anaphylactic reaction. Your first three rules are not practical for the following reasons: 1) Many people will encounter nests by accident, 2) it is impossible to always avoid being in their flight path, and 3) not all people are capable of inhibiting their reaction of fear (ie, swatting and sudden movements and running for away). On #3 you’re not truthful. Multiple people have reported being attacked by these large hornets. You’re also misinformed about anaphylaxis. While some children suffer anaphylaxis, many people don’t develop a dangerous allergic reaction until they’re about the healthy age of 25, after a series of bee or hornet stings in their young lives. We’re not trying to scare people. We’re trying to bring awareness and understanding. “Very peaceful”? How about the honeybees and hives they destroy, or the insects they attack near porch lights when humans are nearby. You have a few good facts in your discourse, but you need to assemble your facts properly so you can turn the facts into knowledge, so you can actually be known as wise and not a wisecracker.

  22. About 1 month ago, I spotted a giant wasp, bee, or hornet as big as my thumb. Then my husband spoke about one that he saw and a buddy at work mentioned similar. We live in WNY, near Buffalo.

  23. I killed a huge bee that had an orange-ish head and yellow body recently here in Lansdale, PA, USA. It was about 1.5 to 2 inches long. I can’t say for certain that it was the Asian Giant Hornet but it sure looked like it. It had entered the house pretty late at night (which seemed unusual to me – you don’t usually see bee activity after dark). I killed it with a typical wasp and hornet spray.

  24. Did some more research into it online, and it appears that the bee that I killed in Lansdale, PA was a European Hornet. I’ve lived in Pennsylvania for a long time but I’ve never seen one of these before. Quite a large bee. It’s probably worth mentioning on a website the distinctions between the two and what to do if you come across these insects around your home.

  25. I live in southern/central Illinois and I could swear Ive seen a dead hornet like this on my back porch maybe a few years ago. Ill have to see if I kept it out of interest or not but I remember it looking very “cartoony” compared to the traditional hornet/yellow jacket

  26. Saginaw-Bay City MI, My daughter and I saw two of these things on the campus of Saginaw Valley Sate University. My daughter walked away quickly, I on the other hand watched as they went in and out of a ground nest. They buzzed me a few times, I am amazed at there size. Wow!

  27. I saw one of these Asian Giant Wasps in the grass three days ago on my old street in Skokie IL. it was on the 4200 W block of Enfield.

  28. At first I thought it was a Hummingbird, then when it landed I realized it was a huge hornet. It was rooting in the ground as if it was looking for a nest. It took a couple of trys, but I was able to kill it. 8-16-2013 approximately at 7:00 PM. Have several good pix.

  29. I saw this giant bee looking creature and my four year old started to call it a cicabee cause it looks like half cicada and half bee, I am afraid to take her outside after reading this. It burrows under my patio. Is there any way to get rid of this/ we hornet spray work?

  30. Sounds like it might be a Cicada Killer Wasp, which isn’t as aggressive as the hornets. Can’t really give advice, since we’re not sure what it is, and everyone’s specific situation could be different regarding medical risk, etc. They are are hard to spray in flight. It would probably be best to stay away from burrowing area. The spray might be worse than the encounter with the Cicada Killer Wasp. Of if you really want best solution, call an exterminator.

  31. I live in Berwyn IL and one of these Giant Bees were spotted in my backyard. I have never seen anything like it before. Dont know much about them, it would help if someone can fill me in. Im a little worried……

  32. I live in Birmingham AL, I was stung by a giant orange hornet yesterday at 3pm one sting on my wrist I killed it immediately we have gotten use to them being around no attacks i just learned they get aggressive after mid august, from my wrist to my elbow is red and swollen and extremely painful to the touch its burning and itching very uncomfortable. i am 36 male not allergic to wasp stings it has been 16 hours 2 benadryl 400mg ibuprofen and it is still the same if not a little bigger from sleeping. be aware of these demons around children, elderly, you and your pets they kill 40 people per year and it is there hunting season. good luck be careful , Jared.

  33. Just this weekend, in Kent County, Delaware, my son was attacked by a huge buzzing insect about the size of a humming bird. My husband said it must have been a horsefly..but it seemed awful huge. My son swatted at it and it become enraged! He ran from one side of the open field we were in to the other…which was about 2 city blocks each way and this loud buzzing insect followed him and kept dive bombing him…It followed him for what seemed like 5 or so minutes before flying away. He had 2 welts on his arm from it but they did not really swell and only hurt for a few minutes. There was no stinger in either welt. We have seen countless black n yellow huge hornets in this area (Killens Pond State Park) but none have ever been aggressive…Ii was not sure if this was a Delaware hornet asvit seemed darker. This was scary as hell… Any ideas on what it may have been?

  34. I’ve killed 6 in the past 3 months and 4 last night. 2 were in the house and very docile. The third entered through the door opening and was much more aggressive than all previous. The fourth hovered by the outside light so I swatted it down with a broom to keep it from coming in. The exterminator is coming tomorrow because this is becoming more than a coincidence. We live in WNY and see them quite frequently. I believe it to be the Asian giant. Not quite sure where their nest is but the exterminator said I was the fourth call of the day concerning them.

  35. Deadly Asian Giant Hornet Spotted in Russell SPRINGS KY.
    I HAVE NEVER SEEN A NEST THAT BIG. IT’s ON THE NEXT STREET FROM ME AT MY FREINDS HOUSE. They made the nest on a tree about 20 feet up.
    We have a guy in town that has lost a lot of honey bees this year. I would like to know if this is why.
    Three or four days ago I have a pear tree I move to the front yard. All of these honey bees are on it now. I think they are trying to make a nest. I would like them to stay here for my garden. But I don’t want them Asian Giant Hornets in my yard.

  36. I’ve been reading most of the posts on this site, and just wanted to inform you all that as of two days ago, I spotted 2 of the Asian Giant Hornets, NOT the Killer Cicada Wasps, here. I live in Las Vegas, Nevada. They were very aggresive and chased me into my house. I got a very up close and personal look at them. I was trying to find out more about them when I found this site. Looks like they’re doing some jet setting, and are now out west.

  37. Saw and killed what looks like the Asian Giant Hornet here in rural Kentucky. Sprayed it with hornet spray fell off the house into a giant spider nest. The spider was very happy to see his dinner delivered to him!

  38. I live in the mountainous region of East Tennessee near the Virginia and North Carolina borders. I had one of these Asian Giant Hornets fly past me not one foot away from my face. Over 2 inches long and as big around as my ring-finger. I’ve seen hornets before, and this was bigger than any of them.

    They were limited to Asia at one time, but their range has increased to include the Americas.

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