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Kay Ledbetter / Special to The Hesperian-Beacon—
Since the release of information about Asian giant hornets, Texas A&M AgriLife entomologists are being inundated with cicada killers and other lookalike insects submitted for identification as a possible “murder hornet,” which thus far has only been found in Washington State in the U.S.
Many insects are being mistaken for the Asian giant hornet.
While the agency wants to continue to encourage Texans to be vigilant in watching for the Asian giant hornet, they also want to help provide guidance that will help narrow the focus.
David Ragsdale, Ph.D., chief scientific officer and associate director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, and professor in the Department of Entomology, said many photos of Texas native cicada killers, or ground hornets, are being submitted as suspected Asian giant hornets. He said their website receives five to 10 photos a day, and agency pest management agents and specialists around the state have also been handling inquiries.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane … it’s a cicada killer
In May, the concern about Asian giant hornet was enough to prompt Gov. Greg Abbott to request a task force be mobilized to prepare Texas against the Asian giant hornet’s arrival.
But June is the normal month for the cicada killer wasp, a common large wasp in Texas, to start showing up and this prompted posts on Facebook and in news feeds mistakenly reporting cicada killer wasps as sightings of the Asian giant hornet.
“Most everyone has seen the cicada killer wasp that is very large but has mostly been ignored in the past,” Ragsdale said. “With the most recent news of the Asian giant hornet, they are now paying attention to the native Texas insect.”
While some people thought they had been seeing the newly pictured murder hornets for years, AgriLife Extension experts want to clarify, “No, you haven’t.” Now they are providing outlets to help tell the difference between the Asian giant hornet and similar looking pests.
Holly Davis, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist in Weslaco, and Pat Porter, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension entomologist in Lubbock, recently developed a short video explaining the differences between the “murder hornet” and several common lookalikes here in Texas.
“To date, we have identified hundreds of insects that people in Texas suspect might be Asian giant hornets (murder hornets),” Porter said. “Eighty percent of these have been either the eastern cicada killer or western cicada killer. It is understandable how non-entomologists would have trouble deciding which was which.”