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What’s the buzz on so-called ‘murder hornets’ coming to South Florida?

Agriculture Commissioner says there is no evidence of Asian giant hornets in the state

The first male 'murder hornet' every detected in the United States was captured in Washington state. (Washington State Department of Agriculture, WPLG)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Think you've spotted a so-called "murder hornet" in your midst? The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is sending out an urge for calm.

Although the FDACS has received several sightings from Floridians that they’ve seen the Asian giant hornet, they confirmed, along with the USDA, that there is “no evidence that so-called ‘murder hornets’ " are present in the state or in South Florida, according to Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

The first male Asian giant hornet ever detected in the United States was captured in Washington State, announced the state’s Department of Agriculture on Monday,

The invasive insect was first documented in Washington last year and officials have yet to determine how it arrived in North America. Most likely, it arrived on a container ship docked at one of Washington state's ports.

“Our partners at the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and the USDA are continuing to study and contain the Asian giant hornet to Washington state. We have every reason to believe that these ongoing efforts will keep this invasive pest far away from Florida’s residents and 650,000 honeybee colonies,” Fried said.

Size comparison of other hornets to the Asian giant hornet. (Washington State Department of Agriculture website)

Although the Asian giant hornet would rather feed on insects, sap and soft fruits, if it feels threatened, it will attack people or pets, according to experts at the WSDA. And, while the giant hornet’s venom is similar to other stinging insects, it’s not the same. Its stinger is longer than that of a typical wasp and a single sting can deliver a larger dose of venom. The venom is more toxic than that of local bees and wasps. A sting can damage tissue and cause substantial pain.

Reports of Asian giant hornets in Florida are often cases of misidentification, as they bear a close resemblance to native hornet and wasp species in Florida, according to Fried.

If you believe you have seen an Asian giant hornet, report it to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry by emailing DPIHelpline@FDACS.gov or call (888) 397-1517. They asked that you provide as much detail as you can about what you saw and where. If possible, include a photo, but only if you can safely obtain one.

More info about the Asian Giant Hornet.

About the Author:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.