New Haven scientists: Large ‘Cicada Killer’ wasp is not a ‘murder hornet’

A graphic noting the differences between the local Cicada Killer wasp and the “murder hornet.”

NEW HAVEN — A large “Cicada Killer” wasp has been unusually active in recent days in Connecticut, prompting confusion for some people who mistook it for a “murder hornet,” according to a team of New Haven scientists.

The Sphecius speciosus, a wasp native to Connecticut, and Vespa mandarinia, the “murder hornet,” are both more than an inch long, scientists with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station said. But the wasp is not aggressive.

“The Cicada Killer wasp is a solitary gentle giant and can be seen all over New England, while the giant Asian hornet is native to east Asia. It has been intercepted in Washington State where the Washington State Department of Agriculture is addressing the problem,” the scientists said in a release. “The giant Asian hornet is not here in Connecticut.”

The wasps appear between late July into August, timing “their appearance to the emergence of cicadas,” the scientists said.

“Males, who have no stingers emerge first, establish territory and joust one another. When the females emerge, males compete for access to the females,” the scientists explained in the release. “Each female then seeks a sandy dry patch of ground, digs a tunnel, flies up to a tree, paralyzes a cicada, takes it down to her tunnel, and literally stuffs it into the tunnel.”

“She then lays an egg on the cicada, which becomes food for her offspring. Sometimes, several wasps may select the same desirable location for their tunnels, but each has her own tunnel,” the scientists said.

“Cicada killer-wasps are not aggressive. They will fly up and move out of the way if a person approaches. It is not necessary to kill these wasp, but to understand that the soil they are digging in is dry and sandy,” the scientists explained in the release. “They are an indicator that the soil/ ground area where they are working is in poor condition. Correct the poor soil conditions and next year the wasps will find a new location to dig.”

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