Recently a fair amount of media coverage has been given to both the appearance of murder hornets in parts of the United States and people receiving packages of mysterious seeds in their mail. These reports are often inaccurate and misleading, causing significant confusion amongst the general public.

The murder hornets or Giant Asian hornets have made an appearance in isolated areas of the pacific northwest over the past few months — the native range of the insects in East Asia. The hornets are two inches long with an orange head and a black-banded orange body. They can inflict painful stings even through thick clothing. However, they will not sting unless their nests are disturbed or if the insects are handled. The hornets are social insects and form nests in the ground.

The name murder hornet comes from preying on other insects, most notably honeybees, as a food source. They decapitate the bees with their large mandibles and destroy a honeybee colony in a matter of hours.

The murder hornets have been observed in Washington State and British Columbia near Vancouver. Recently a few were caught in insect monitoring traps confirming their presence. Though concern exists about their spread, none have been sighted in other parts of the nation, including North Georgia. The Extension Office has received numerous calls and e-mails from residents claiming they have sighted a murder hornet. Instead, they are observing European hornets and the cicada –killer wasps, which are common in our area.

The other item of concern is residents receiving seed packets in their mail, supposedly from China. What should you do if one arrives?

Avoid opening the package, and do not plant the seeds. They may be invasive plants, which proliferate and can take over an area thus crowding out native plants. If you have opened it and planted the seeds, remove them from the soil and dispose. For those that have germinated, dig them up, eliminate or use an herbicide such as Round-Up.

Anyone who has received unsolicited seeds in the mail from China or any other country should put the packet in a small plastic bag and contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture Seed Lab in Tifton Lab 229-386-3145 or email SeedLab@agr.georgia.gov for further instructions.

Please check my blog out: http://gardeningingwinnett.blogspot.com/. It has information on a variety of horticultural topics and is updated frequently.

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with UGA Extension Gwinnett. He can be contacted at 678-377-4011 or tdaly@uga.edu.

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