The coronavirus pandemic will likely remain your top concern as we head into the warmest part of the year. So-called murder hornets, which have received plenty of media attention over the past week, are not likely to rear their yellow-orange heads in the Garden State, despite sightings in North America as recently as late 2019.

The invasive Asian giant hornet, the largest species of hornet in the world, has "no presence in New Jersey," according to the state Department of Agriculture, and experts claim it's unlikely the pest will make its way here anytime soon.

"There's no real fear needed here in New Jersey or anywhere else on the East Coast," said Michelle Infante-Casella, an agricultural agent at Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

The large pests, nicknamed murder hornets, have only had confirmed sightings in Washington State and British Columbia, Canada. And as of now, there's been no confirmation the hornets survived the winter in these spots.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension personnel have received requests to identify hornets found by the public. Offices have not identified any submitted specimens to be the Asian giant hornet, which can reach close to two inches in length.

"We do not know how the species arrived in the United States but it is important to not overreact," said Dina Fonseca, director of the Center for Vector Biology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rugters—New Brunswick.

Fonseca and Infante-Casella advise against the indiscriminate killing of bees, wasps or hornets out of fear. The insects play beneficial roles as plant pollinators and predators of agricultural pests.

Should the species make its way to New Jersey, Infante-Casella added, it would have to sting the same person several times in order to live up to its nickname. It's primarily aggressive towards honeybee colonies, and not towards humans unless provoked.

"The rule of thumb is, if you stay away from it, it'll stay away from you," she said.

Still concerned? Contact your local Rutgers Cooperative Extension office for proper identification of an insect.

According to the state Department of Agriculture, a European hornet that looks similar to the Asian giant hornet does have a presence in New Jersey, but it's not as aggressive.

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