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Cicada killer wasps being mistaken for Asian giant hornets; here’s how to tell the difference

In a case of mistaken identity, the Washington State Department of Agriculture said it is receiving many reports of a giant wasp that looks similar to an Asian giant hornet.

The giant wasp, known as a cicada killer, can be nearly as large as an Asian giant hornet.

On Wednesday, WSDA tweeted a labeled photo of the two insects side by side.

The Asian giant hornet is 1.5 to 2 inches long, while the cicada killer wasp is only up to 1.5 inches. But trying to differentiate between the two with size alone is not easy.

Instead, look at the stripes on the abdomen. Asian giant hornets have dark orange stripes while cicada killers are a brighter, higher-contrast yellow, Newsweek reported.

The distinct shapes of the stripes are also a useful differentiator. Asian giant hornets’ stripes are mostly smooth bands while the cicada killers’ have peaks, giving their abdomens a more patterned than striped look.

Another difference is visible in the insects’ heads. Asian giant hornets have more of a “face,” with wide orange heads that are as wide or wider than their shoulders, which contrast against the dark brown thorax, where the wings and legs are connected.

Cicada killers’ heads are narrow and are the same dark brown color as the thorax.