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. Dear Cardinal News,

    As posted previously I see European Hornets fairly regularly in Pulaski Co. Virginia. So far (fortunately) no Giant Asians. With world trade as it is the Asian species has certainly arrived from across the pond. That said from reading all the posts I’m sure the European species is often misidentified as an Asian. Some posters mention an “orange head” and “yellow bands on orange body”, but clearly from photos the Asian has a bright, yellow (big) head and black/yellow body. They also mention seeing them at night which leads to my first question.

    Do Asian Hornets fly at night like the Europeans? The European Hornet LOVES my floodlights and eats up moths with relish. In the dark most folks cannot tell from a distance what species other than HUGE hornet. So if it’s seen at a floodlight can we assume it’s not an Asian Hornet?

    Next question is in your experience have you seen any Asian Hornets or photos from S.W. Virginia that have been positively identified. If so where? I’m in the woods A LOT. Far from help or cell coverage and usually on foot, so I’d like to be aware if these vicious buggers are lurking nearby.

    The European species I see truly just hunt the ground and buzz about head level or lower. I’ve even seen one take a cicada…was stinging the crap out of it on the ground. Between it and the cicada they made quite a racket. It then tried to fly off with it but instead wound up eating part of it right there on the ground (or was tearing it up, not sure) and flew off. Then it CAME BACK for the rest. I know because I was attending the grill at our campsite and this was going on 20 ft from the grill, so I noticed it when it returned.

    I find European Hornets to be interesting bugs. Fact they are clearly not as aggressive as the Asian species helps. I hope to never encounter their nastier cousins!!!! (I’ve been stung by black wasps SEVEN times this summer and that’s bad enough…I cannot imagine being stung by one of these monster sized things.)

  2. I live in the locale where these killer insects were spotted – and I, for one, am immediately packing up, quitting my job, selling my house and moving somewhere further north, like Northern Canada, Alaska or the Arctic, where the air is colder and these insects will not be able to get to me or my family.

    I would advise everyone else in this state to do the same – and fast.

  3. I meant to add that I’ve observed European Hornets stripping bark of trees regularly….not to mention tearing into the lumber on our camper porch. Do Asian Hornets also exhibit this behavior? (I assume it’s for next building.)

  4. My husband and I were picnicking in Central Park about 18 yrs ago and came face to face with one of these loud scary things, it was the size of a small bird. Thank goodness no one got stung but everyone in the vicinity, including us, ran in opposite directions screaming. It then went through a small hole under a large rock. We always wondered what that was and now we know it was either one of these.

  5. I promise you I have seen these things outside my house. I live in Park Ridge right by the woods and I remember thinking that is the biggest hornet I have ever seen. I should have taken a picture. Oh and it was this summer.

  6. I live in northern Loudoun County Virginia – a mile or so from where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet. I have seen these things on my property. They have not stung anyone I know, but they are around. Absolutely. When I first saw them I thought: “that’s the biggest hornet I have ever seen.” Now I know I was not imagining things.

  7. I live in S. E. Massachusetts. When we moved here in 1993 I saw these huge Yellow Jacket Wasps flying around. At first I thought they were a humming bird until one landed on the deck rail. I’ve lived around Yellow Jackets all my life but never saw one this huge, it was the size of my thumb. I really gave some thought to these being some sort of mutant yellow jacket because we are not that far from a nuclear power plant.I asked people in the area about them and they said they were not as common as regular yellow jackets but they have been around here for years. They are not all over the area here but seem to be in pockets here and there. Many have never seen them or even know what we are talking about. We do not always see them but they do startle you when they make themselves know. Never had a problem with them. Never were aggressive towards us or the pets. I guess we are all still discovering what Mother Nature has given us to live with. These creatures must have something to do with the balance of nature so I hope Monsanto and other chemical companies are not working to hard on a way to eradicate another species.
    Good luck to all.

  8. the Giant Asian Hornet looks much more like the European Hornet than the Cicada Wasp. European Hornets are plentiful in the Eastern US, not sure about other areas. European Hornets congregated at the top of an old sugar maple tree in our yard in Maryland back in late summer 2003, and they were somehow getting into the basement of our house and they are very loud, they resemble a regular yellow jacket on steroids, about three times larger.Never got stung but they looked and sounded very frightening.Cicada wasps are a bit darker and hover around the top of the lawn. Im not sure I believe Asian Hornets are populating in the US due to any weather changes. If so, this winter surely didn’t help them.

  9. I just found one of these at my boyfriends house. I haven’t seen anything like this. It literally chased us. IN TENNESSEE

  10. To be honest (with all due respect) wheres the clear evidence we actually saw an Asian Giant Hornet ? I know there was a description given of one apparently in Arlington Heights, but to be honest I have a few problems with this story :

    1) No picture was given (of course this could be justified as Asian Giant Hornets are extremely dangerous and no journalist not prepared would risk the shot, but somehow not having a picture makes things a little vague here for me

    2)The insect described (“lone scout”) may have been a European Hornet. I agree it probably wasn’t a Cicada Killer – It’s true in that the differences between that and the Giant Hornet from Asia are too profound – however given that the article admits that European and Asian Giant Hornets are similar, I’m honestly given to believe that it was more likely the former.

    Look, I’m not denying that Asian Giant Hornets are agressive and dangerous. I’m just saying i honest find it hard to believe that Asian Giant Hornets could be wrecking havoc in the U.S. (at least without some kind of notice and attempt to mitigate the damage, but then I could be kidding myself). I just feel that the internet community has overall taken the article at face value and I feel i should have evidence for it’s accuracy as such. I know this will be seen as denying the the importants of incidents of hornet attacks that are taking place – my condolonces to all victims of hornet stings. Anyone who’s upset with me for writing this, that’s fine I just find this article a little much on the hype factor. I appreciate your time to consider this input. Thank you for your time.

  11. they’re here in Cross Fork P.A. been here four yrs. now. They eat out of my hummingbird feeders everyday. I have killed a few on my porch an I swear others come looking for them, they hang around where I killed the last one searching.

  12. My cousin told me about this when I moved to Houston, Texas The other day I walked out my door and this huge wasp was flying near me; I couldn’t believe the size of this thing. It flew at me and I started wailing something in my hand took of running. That really freaked me out, crazy

  13. So far this year I’ve not seen as many Euro Hornets, but did see the largest I ever have this spring. Had to kill as it was relentlessly trying to get into our screened in porch. When it would land we’d hit the screen where it was with a fly swatter (from inside of course). It just kept flying a few feet off to land again and look for entrance around the doors. This went on all morning into the afternoon.

    I’m betting it was a queen searching for a nesting place. Easily just under 2 inches long. Insanely huge even for even one of these. Sprayed it finally through the screen which hurt but didn’t kill it, so hubby grabbed a 2×4 and hit it TWICE before it succumbed. I took a photo next to a normal sized wasp and it is about 4 times the size in girth and twice in length. I’ve seen a few more, but the nest must not be close because we’re only seeing one or two a day hunting around the eves of the house.

  14. Cardinal News,

    Are Asian Hornets ever solid black on the abdomen? If so I may have seen one in Pulaski Co. Virginia. Was only 4 or 5 feet away so I got a good look. Closer than I’d have liked actually.

    Was siting by the pool and from the corner of my eye saw what I THOUGHT was a hummingbird flying around. It landed on a blue raft next to my chair that is normally floating in the pool which is when I realized it was a monster hornet/wasp.

    Against the light blue it appeared totally black. (I couldn’t distinguish any body stripes anyway.) Had yellow marks on its head similar to a bald faced hornet’s face markings. The head may been all yellow, but since I ran in terror maybe I missed that? Its length would have stretched easily across the width of my hand.

    We have Europeans Hornets all over. See them almost every day in the spring/summer for years, so 100% sure it wasn’t that. Have Cicada Killers too, but this was much larger than any I’ve seen before.

    Do Asian’s have color variations within their species? If so may explain why this one (if it was one) appeared to be solid black.

    Here’s a link/photo that’s closest I’ve found to what I saw and hope to never see again. The creature (monster) I saw was every bit as large as these.

  15. Possibly a predatory wasp, but Wiki says they are smaller than Euro’s. Whatever the heck it was it was scary.

    As for the Euro’s we must have a nest nearby. They hunt the eves of the house every morning where we normally have bald faced hornet and wasp nests. This year we have only one wasp nest I know of (between the logs in a crack) which is rather nice. The Euro’s must have eaten them all up. Those don’t bother me much anymore unless they happen to buzz close while I’m sunning by the pool.

    If I see Godzilla bee again I will try to maintain composure and get a photo with the iphone.

  16. To welcome these monstrosities is CRAZY! No offense. By the way… the Asian killer bee, IS, IN Sullivan Co. NY and I have SEVERAL, in a jar of rubbing alcohol to help keep them preserved. I KILLED THEM as several had made their way in my apt. via my closet,(as they had taken over an old nest on the 3rd floor) which we found out was linked to that nest!! So I came home to them flying around my bedroom light and thankfuly I quickly grabbed my black can of hornet spray and one by one I got em’! This was all back when I lived in Swan Lake NY in Sullivan Co. 2004!!! Man these bees even come OUT AT NIGHT!!! That freaked me out! They sounded so loud and angry UGH!!! And they came in large numbers and I teased them with Clorox cleanup, because I was so pissed at them and they just banged and banged into the screen.. it was FREAKY!!! Had they gotten in they would have hurt me bad! Maybe worse! The apt. and property is no longer in use, THANK GOD! I thought they were carpenter bees, cousins to the Asian killer bees, but they were way TOO HUGE!!!!! I was so relieved to get out of there!!! Over done with gone!!! God’s speed to those living in my old Co… one more thing STAY CLEAR of them and let the PROS handle them FOR REAL!!!

  17. I live in Ft Worth, Texas area. Have been trying to identify these hornets for 3 weeks now. Now I know they are definitely the Japanese Giant Hornet. Scary since I have 4 nest right around my a/c unit & back door!!! Callin county tomorrow!!!

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