The European or giant hornet is an introduced species brought to United States by European settlers, and were first reported in North America about 1840 in New York. Since then, they have naturalized across most of the mid western states and are now quite common in Pennsylvania.
European hornets hunt many species of insects to feed their larvae including grasshoppers, various flies, and yellowjackets and honeybees sometimes. The species stings in response to being stepped on or grabbed and is about as painful as a honey bee sting
European hornets are the species most commonly mistaken for Asian giant Hornets also known as murder hornet and has led to frantic phone calls and emails to state agencies, agriculture extension and the media. The two species can also be distinguished by a number of features including the color and position of the eyes
Michael Skvarla, assistant research professor of arthropod identification at Penn State, said:
There has been an increase in European hornet-related queries. From an average of 16 per year in 2017 through 2019 to 409 in 2020. It absolutely went through the roof. Some of it is (the murder hornet story) staying in the news. People may have seen them previously and just thought it was a big wasp and ignored it.
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