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Asian hornets not in Virginia

Rest easier, Virginia: the Asian giant hornet, also known as the “murder hornet,” isn’t here in the state and likely won’t be anytime soon.

That’s the word from Dr. Deborah Waller, who teaches entomology and forensic entomology at Old Dominion University.

A Suffolk reader sent in a photo last week after she became concerned about a certain stinging insect’s odd behavior. It sat in one place for more than an hour and watched her paint, she said.

But Waller took a look at the photo and said it appears to be a yellow jacket. “That’s much more likely,” Waller stated in a phone interview.

The Asian giant hornet made the rounds of news reports after being spotted in a few places in Washington state and Canada. It can kill victims with its sting in its native Asia and can also decimate honeybee populations by killing the nest’s defenders in order to feed on the larvae.

“They just grab them, kill them and eliminate the ones that protect the babies,” Waller said.

However, the Asian giant hornet also eats other insects, including undesirable ones like garden pests, Waller said. It’s also not aggressive to humans in general and, like most stinging insects, will only sting if provoked.

Waller said that while experts aren’t sure how the hornet got to North America, they’re also not concerned about it spreading here.

“Entomologists are really not worried about it,” she said. “They don’t expect it to spread, and they don’t expect it to do much damage where it is. They’re not likely to spread and just not likely to be much of a danger to honeybees or anybody else.”

Waller said the main issue with the Asian giant hornet seems to be its “murder hornet” nickname.

“I think the name that people gave it, which is not its normal, common name, is what is frightening,” she said. “The term murder is always inciting.”

Waller took it as a good sign that more people are aware of and concerned about anything that could potentially harm honeybees, which do face very real threats from insecticides, parasites and more.

“There’s a lot more respect for bees,” she said. “People are more interested in preserving them.”