I heard about a nasty stinging invasive insect. I originally searched for "murder wasp" and found an exotic insect that was frightening but mostly harmless and then started reading up on "murder hornets". A nearby acquaintance to where I live said she had seen two murder hornets so far.

Among other things (e.g. a sting that can easily pass through a beekeeping suit), I've heard stings described in language I had only previously heard mentioned with respect to vipers. One person who was stung said it was the most painful insect sting he'd ever experienced and felt like a red-hot tack pushed into his skin. It compared to a snakebite described as being two white-hot needles stabbing the victim's skin. If several murder hornets gang up on someone, the projection is that the venom injected could be comparable to snakebite.

Is the best advice to slowly back away? I have heard, but not tested, that hairspray will lock a bee's wings. Will hairspray have desirable effects, or am I asking for trouble by doing anything but get away?

  • 1
    Be familiar where they nest and what they look like. Most hornets/bees/bumblebees/wasps you see probably wont be "murder hornets". Report your sighting to a park ranger or the like. Or the department of agriculture. This is an invasive species and everyone wants rid of it. Oh, and don't annoy them, the hairspray idea sounds like a bad one. May 6, 2020 at 1:48
  • You say you live in Illinois. Don't worry about them, it'll be a while till they spread there, and might not ever get there before getting exterminated. May 6, 2020 at 2:35
  • This question is a lot more innocent than I thought when I saw the preview on my screen ‘What do I do if I see a murder’ May 10, 2020 at 12:00

1 Answer 1


I'm assuming for this answer that you are based in the USA, and have read the recent NY times article on "Murder Hornets"

Like most wasp species, you are at little risk unless you are disturbing its nest or happen to accidentally cause it to think it is being attacked (e.g. it lands on your side without you knowing and you lower your arm onto it).

The best thing to do is treat them as you would any other wasp - move slowly away, let it fly around you if it wants to.

Note that your chances of being attacked in the USA or Canada are very very very low - there is no evidence (yet) that they have become established in the Pacific North West.

Also note (as Wikipedia says):

Since 2001, the yearly human death toll caused by stings of bees, wasps and hornets in Japan has been ranging between 12 and 26. Since this number also includes deaths caused by wasps, bees and other hornet species, the number of deaths caused by Asian giant hornets is likely significantly lower.

Advice in China is that people stung more than 10 times need medical help, and need emergency treatment for more than 30 stings. The stings can cause kidney failure. In 2013, stings by Asian giant hornets killed 41 people and injured more than 1,600 people in Shaanxi, China.

Japan has a population of around 126 million - with around 26 dying of stings each year - around 1 in 20 million chance. Note that similar rates are found for bee/wasp/hornet stings in the USA. For comparison, the car crash fatality rate in the USA is 12.4/100,000, so your risk of death/injury from these insects in particular is very very low.

Edited to add - If you sight one, you should report it to your state's Department of Agriculture, especially if you are not from Washington State.

There is also a common species of solitary wasp, known by the common name Cicada Killer, which are large (up to 2"/5 cm) and often "buzzes" people - but rarely stings. You might mistake one of these for an Asian Giant Hornet, but in reality these are fairly harmless and are mainly looking for cicadas to lay their eggs on.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.