Asian Giant Hornet’s and Gardening Q&A

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This week I want to share two recurring questions we recently received at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center. I hope you find these questions and their answers helpful.

Question: I think I saw an Asian giant hornet. What should I do?


European hornet worker (Matt Bertone, NC State University)

Answer: The news media are reporting that the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) has been found in Washington state. This hornet lives up to its name because the queens are more than 2″ long while the workers are about 1 1⁄2″ long. The “murder hornet” nickname given by the media really refers to their well-deserved reputation as a pest because they can attack and destroy an entire bee colony. However, this name is a dramatization. These insects not murder people.

3 wasps

Three giant wasps. The Asian giant wasp is only found in the Pasific Northwest: A) Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), B) European hornet (Vespa crabro), C) cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus). Note that different individuals of each of these wasps can vary in size. (Photo by Matt Bertone).

The only reports of the Asian giant hornet in North America are from the Pacific Northwest and southwestern Canada. However, adult European hornets somewhat resemble the Asian giant hornet. The Asian giant hornets have an almost entirely yellow-orange colored head. They have a dark thorax (the body section where the wings and legs attach), and the abdomen has dark brown and black bands. The head of the European hornet is reddish-brown, becoming yellowish near the face. Also, the eyes of Asian giant hornets are smaller in relation to the size of the head compared to European hornets.

Asian giant hornets are not an issue for us at this time and not likely to be one in the near future barring some accidental introduction (as was likely the case in Washington).

As with any bee/wasp/hornet sting, the greatest threat is for people who are highly allergic, who need to be careful outdoors.

If you happen to find a wasp that fits the description of the Asian giant hornet, let us know so we can confirm its identity.

Question: I’m worried about food shortages. What can I do?

Answer: In America, we have never experienced empty grocery store shelves. The COVID-19 situation is having a huge effect on farming and the entire agricultural industry. Being concerned is appropriate. I don’t expect there will be a lack of food to purchase. However, I do expect there will be some items that may be in limited supply on grocery stores shelves as this situation continues.

For those who garden, it is a good idea to add an extra row or two. If you have not gardened, it is a little more challenging to get started. A container garden is an easy way to start gardening. And a container garden can be surprisingly easy and productive. Other potential options are more challenging.

tomato plants

In a few days there will be ripe tomatoes ready for picking. (Credit Seth Nagy).

Foraging can be something to consider. From all the white blooms I’m seeing right now, it looks like we will have a good wild blackberry harvest. Persimmons and mulberries are other fruits to collect. Lambsquarter is typically considered a weed, but it is in the same family as spinach and can be used the same way. There are many other plants and fungi that can be collected as well.

Acquiring grains, like wheat or corn, in bulk is an option. Wheat is used to make bread among many other things. Milling wheat into flour is one hurdle, and then knowing how to bake is the other, but it’s an option. There is an active subculture that enjoys using whole grains.

Hunting and fishing can supplement the dinner table, too. According to NC Wildlife statistics, there were 1,008 deer harvested in Caldwell County last year. This, along with bears, rabbits, squirrels, and fish, adds up.

It is possible to raise chickens and rabbits in a smaller space, but there are regulations about doing this inside municipal boundaries. Other creatures like bees, sheep, and a dairy cow can be kept, too.

My suggestion is, if you’re looking for a new hobby, explore these options I’ve mentioned. However, if you are not seeking a new hobby, just make a commitment to support local farmers. Visit NC FArms Today or the Caldwell County website to get started.

For other interesting articles, visit the Caldwell County website.