Large Wasps, Wow!

May 21, 2020

By: Dr. Claude Thomas

Have you seen the news of the Murder Hornets on the news lately? Wow, it is scary, but is it real? Yes, and then again no. Here is a picture of the large Murder Hornet (Vespa mandarinia).

murder hornet on tree branch

Asian giant hornets (Murder Hornets) can be nearly 2 inches long, and have a distinct orange face with obvious dark eyes. But are they in Florida? Well, no. The Department of Agriculture in Florida has had this insect on its radar for several years and there have been no sightings or confirmed identifications here in Florida. Asian giant hornet attacks and destroys honeybee hives. Just a few hornets can destroy a hive in a matter of hours. The Department of Agriculture is requesting beekeepers to always be on the alert for this invasive species of wasps in Florida. None yet!

But what might you be seeing in your yard that is a large, 2-inch wasp and flies low over your grass? Well, it could be a Cicada Killers (Sphecius speciosus). This is a 2-inch long wasp found here in Florida. I have seen them, and they are scary if you don’t know what they do. They overwinter in cocoons in ground nests, hatch out in the spring, dig a new ground nest, and start laying eggs. For each egg chamber in the nest, she places 2-3 cicadas as food for the larvae. When you see Cicada Killers flying, they are usually low over the lawn or trees looking for female cicada to take back to their nests. If you can take the time to compare the two insects, you can easily tell the difference 
Killer wasps have an orange face and orange and black stripes on their abdomen while Cicada Killers have a black face and yellow and black stripes, making them easy to identify and tell apart. However, we do not have the killer wasps (Murder Hornets) here, so what you are most likely seeing is Cicada Killers.

close up of an asian giant hornet

Killer Wasps (Vespa mandarinia)

close up of a cicada killer wasp

Cicada Killer Wasps (Sphecius speciosus)


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