Fear of the Asian “murder hornet” sparked frantic reports Monday of local sightings, but experts swatted back the claims, saying they were likely nothing more than cases of mistaken insect identity.
Just days after it surfaced that the deadly giant wasp had recently appeared for the first time in the US in Washington state — and experts told The Post it is only a matter of time before the notorious insect arrives here — area residents recounted horror stories about what they called their close encounters with the scourge.
“Yesterday afternoon, one of those hornets flew into my apartment,” a woman wrote in an e-mail, adding that she lives two blocks from the Bronx Botanical Garden, which a beekeeper has said would be an ideal green space for the hornet to settle.
“My screen was up partially, and it flew right in. In order to protect my baby, I trapped it in the curtain and tried to beat it, but it just buzzed louder and louder and kept flying around,” the woman said. “I eventually guided it out the open window. It’s huge and scary.”
Several New Jersey residents claimed to have seen the flying killers around for years.
A Somerset County resident told The Post that three years ago, “There were hundreds of them, all 2 inches long, the size of my thumb” at her estate in “horse country.
“I’d never seen them before. At first, we found them congregating on our porch and near the lilac bushes,” said the woman, an artist who asked to be called Bea.
“They were very angry and aggressive but not fast like a regular wasp. You don’t want to swat them because when they get angry, they attack, and if one dies, the rest comes running. We called the exterminators and pest control.
“We still have some,” she said. “They come to our porch, and when that happens, we have to stay inside.”
A man said he remembered seeing the Asian giant hornet over the years at his brother’s home in Blairstown, NJ.
“He had a pool in his back yard, and these large hornets were in his rock retaining wall,” said the man, who only wanted to be identified as Douglas.
“I had never seen anything like that at the time other than on TV. They had the same color, same wings and were huge!”
People from Delaware to Virginia and Tennessee also said they had seen the vicious buggers.
But experts said the East Coast residents were confusing the deadly hornet with other large insects, including one known as the “cicada killer” wasp and another, the European hornet. While large and scary-looking, neither is as big or aggressive as the Asian version, they said.
The Asian giant hornet “has no presence in New Jersey,” a spokesman with the state’s Department of Agriculture told The Post on Monday. “There is a European hornet that has been in the US since the 1800s that does have a similar appearance, with some differences in its body.”
Cornell University Assistant Professor of Pollinator Health Scott McArt also nixed the idea of the giant wasps ever being confirmed in New York — although he said that hasn’t stopped residents from flooding a state Department of Agriculture hot line set up to help identify insects.
He said there were calls from at least 10 people Monday who suspected that they had seen an Asian giant hornet — although all were disproven with photos.
“My guess is it would take several years before it actually showed up” here, if at all, McArt said.
Dr. Gale Ridge, who heads Connecticut’s insect-identification service, added, “We have not received any reports” of them.
“I’m absolutely certain that it’s a mistaken identity,” she said of claims to the contrary.
The wasps have been known to kill humans through repeated stings or in cases of anaphylatic shock; in Japan, up to 50 people a year die this way, according to reports.
But the giant hornets’ main target is honey bees, entomologists say.
Mark Creighton, the state beekeeper for Connecticut, said the smaller insects “have a unique way of dealing with” them.
“When the wasp invades the hive, a whole bunch of bees bundle around the wasp, and they start vibrating their thoracic muscles. And they basically cook the wasp,” he said.
But the gigantic wasp “is not foolish,” he also noted. “They know that, too.
“So they usually snipe the bees from afar, take the bees home one by one, weakening the hive, till they can invade the hive en masse.”
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