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MSU experts: no Asian hornets in Mississippi



Alt- text: A closeup of a Southern yellowjacket queen.
Southern yellowjacket queens can be mistaken for Asian giant hornets because of their size and coloring. They are much larger than worker yellowjackets and are seen mostly in the spring as they search for nesting sites. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Blake Layton)

Story by Susan M. Collins-Smith, MSU Extension Service

News reports of a new, invasive hornet spotted in the Northwest has heightened people’s awareness of flying insects recently.

The Asian giant hornet, also called a murder hornet, has been confirmed in the state of Washington.

Mississippians likely will not see the aggressive species for some time, if at all, said Mississippi State University Extension Service entomologist Blake Layton. However, some people believe they have already seen the Asian hornet here.

“I had a call on Monday morning from a lady in Alabama who was pretty sure they’d killed an Asian hornet at her house over the weekend,” Layton said. “They killed it after it lit on her daughter’s shoulder, and they sent me a photo. It turned out to be a periodic cicada.”

Periodic cicadas are one of four insects found in Mississippi that can be confused with the Asian giant hornet, Layton said. European hornets, cicada killers and Southern yellowjacket queens also are similar in appearance to this pest.

Asian giant hornets can be more than 2 inches long. They have large, orange heads with big mandibles used to kill their prey, which include honeybees. Their bodies are black with orange stripes, and they have large, clear wings. Their long stingers can inject potent venom that sometimes causes severe allergic reactions and possibly death in humans and large animals.

A few Asian hornets can wipe out a colony of bees in a matter of hours.

While periodic cicadas do not have the same body shape as Asian giant hornets, people can confuse them with the invasive pest. Both are large with orange and black bodies and large, clear wings, and they both make a buzzing sound in flight. There are several different broods, or species groups, of periodic cidadas that occur intermittently in the East and Midwest. Three broods appear occasionally in Mississippi.

“This is not an emergence year for any of the three broods that we have in Mississippi,” Layton said. “But occasionally, there is one that shows up for the party on the wrong year.”

Like Asian giant hornets, European hornets are true hornets and are nonnative. Workers are about 1 inch long and queens are even larger. They are found mostly in north Mississippi. While they are uncommon, these hornets are spreading across the state. They also eat honeybees and can be minor pests in apiaries, Layton said.

They can be aggressive toward humans who get too close to their nests.

Cicada killers are actually wasps more closely related to mud daubers. But one could be mistaken for an Asian hornet because of its sheer size and similar coloring.

“A big, female killer is just as big as an Asian hornet,” Layton said. “These wasps can catch a cicada and fly off with it.”

Cicada killers occur statewide but usually go undetected because of their social habits. They nest alone and rarely sting because they are not aggressive and do not defend their nests.

Southern yellowjacket queens also look a lot like Asian giant hornets with their large, orange and black bodies. The queens are much larger than the workers and are sometimes spotted in the spring as they search for places to build their nests. They nest below ground in groups that can include hundreds to thousands of yellowjackets. They will aggressively defend the nest when disturbed.

Homeowners usually get stung when doing yardwork that causes vibration of the nest, such as mowing or trimming.

Although these established species of hornets, wasps and bees can be nuisances to humans, they play important roles in the ecosystem. They feed on caterpillar larvae and other insect pests, providing some natural control. Bees pollinate plants as they collect nectar.

Layton recommends using control methods only when nests are near areas where humans might get stung.

Asian giant hornets are not pests that Mississippi beekeepers or anyone in the Southeast should be overly concerned about right now, said Jeff Harris, MSU Extension bee specialist.

“There is no evidence that we have high numbers of this pest or that they have established colonies in the U.S.,” Harris said.

Harris said varroa mites are the primary threat to bee populations right now. However, he, his colleagues and beekeepers worldwide are always on the lookout for emerging threats.

“We’ll definitely keep an eye on what develops with the Asian giant hornet. If it becomes established in the U.S., it could be devastating to bee populations,” he said. “But I think there are other, more concerning emerging pests and viruses that need to be higher on our watch lists right now.”

For more information on bees, wasps and other insects and how to control them, refer to Extension Publication 2331, “Control of Insect Pests In and Around the Home Lawn.”

For more information on honey bees and beekeeping, visit the beekeeping page on the MSU Extension web site.



Butler named Community MVP by NFL Players Association



Tennessee Titan Malcolm Butler (Photo by Chipermc - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Vicksburg native and Tennessee Titan Malcolm Butler continues his generous charitable giving in communities where he has lived and worked. In recognition, he was named the Community MVP for week 11 by the NFL Players Association.

Butler posted the news Wednesday on Facebook.

Butler graciously helped provide people in Nashville, Tennessee, with free COVID-19 testing and grocery gift cards, feeding about 600 families. He helped residents of his hometown, Vicksburg, by giving out grocery cards as well, while also donating $5,000 to the University of West Alabama’s hunger/pandemic fund relief. UWA is his alma mater.

The NFLPA thanked Butler on Twitter for his donation.

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Mississippi shatters its COVID-19 case record with 2,457 new cases, 23 in Warren County



Mississippi shattered its one-day record for new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, reporting nearly 2,500 on the eighth day of more than 1,000 cases. The Mississippi State Department of Health reports that hospitalizations are nearing the July high of around 1,250. There are more patients with confirmed cases Wednesday than ever before in the state. The state’s seven-day average of new cases is over 1,600 per day, another record, with more than 11,000 new cases reported in the last week. The seven-day average high in July was around 1,360 for the week ending July 30.

Nationally, at least 2,607 people died of the virus Tuesday and 184,174 new cases were reported. While some progress in lowering case numbers has been seen in the Midwest, cases continue to surge almost everywhere else in the country. The number of people hospitalized across the nation is quickly approaching 100,000.

In Warren County, MSDH reported 28 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,830, and the county’s death toll is 58. The seven-day average of new cases has risen to 14.9, nearly triple that of early November.

Statewide, MSDH reported 2,457 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 156,868. The seven-day average of new cases is 1604.6 per day, about 876 cases higher — more than double — than the seven-day average a month ago, when the state’s numbers were already on the rise. The current averages exceed the numbers seen in July.

At the beginning of the crises, the age group with the most COVID-19 cases were those over 65. Now, most new cases are seen in younger people who are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. In September, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi were 18 to 24 years old. That has shifted to a slightly older group. In November, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are from 25 to 39 years old followed by those 50 to 64 years old.

MSDH reported Wednesday that 15 more Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,851. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.5%. This rate has dropped as the number of cases are going up faster than the number of deaths at this time.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. While July saw the highest number of new cases since the crisis began, August saw the highest number of deaths. The highest number of deaths in any one day in Mississippi was 67 reported Aug. 25.

The 15 deaths MSDH reported Wednesday occurred between Nov. 20 and Dec. 1 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Wednesday
Covington 1
Harrison 1
Hinds 2
Itawamba 1
Lowndes 3
Marion 1
Neshoba 1
Pearl River 1
Pike 1
Rankin 1
Walthall 1
Wayne 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1. MSDH usually reports statistics on the COVID-19 coronavirus each day based on the previous day’s testing and death reports.

The primary metric concerning state health officials are the numbers of people hospitalized, and that number rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations tripled by late July.

Hospitalizations then steadily dropped through Oct. 3 when they began rising again along with increased cases. The last week in October, hospitalizations began levelling off; however, since Nov. 4 hospitals have seen a steady rise in COVID-19 patients once again.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, was 1,158, about 97% of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 1,057 with confirmed cases of COVID-19, another record high, and 101 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 250 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 142 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 128,746 through Sunday, Nov. 29. It represents about 84% of the cumulative 156,868 cases reported as of Wednesday, Dec. 2.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Wednesday, Nov. 11, was 1,630, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,572, or about 85.9% of the 1,830 cumulative cases reported as of Wednesday, Dec. 2. The county has an estimated 200 active cases.

These estimates are based on MSDH’s guidelines for calculating estimated recoveries when hospitalizations are not known, using the number of cases 21 days ago, less known outcomes (deaths).

The total number of Mississippians tested for COVID-19 (PCR and antigen tests identifying current infections) as of Saturday, Nov. 28, is 1,315,279 or about 44.2% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. MSDH reports statewide test results once a week. Without daily updated numbers of tests, it is impossible to accurately calculate Mississippi’s positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average); however, the estimated rate was 21.9% Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 10.2%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 199 Wednesday, a decrease of one since Tuesday. About 37.8%, or 1,456, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities. The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in LTC facilities is 7,773, about 5% of the state’s total cases.

A total of 26 deaths in Warren County were residents of LTC facilities.

MSDH is no longer reporting outbreaks in individual long-term care facilities in Mississippi and has replaced it with access to a database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. You can access and search the data by provider here. The latest data available is for the week ending Nov. 15.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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First COVID-19 vaccine approved in the U.K.



(Illustration by Viruscorona2020 - Own work + L'épidémie au 02/02/2020 - Pr G Pialoux, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The United Kingdom has approved the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

The move marks the first public use of a vaccine for the virus and a major step toward ending the pandemic, The Associated Press reports.

Both the United States and the European Union are evaluating the Pfizer vaccine and another one manufactured by Moderna. A third vaccine from AstraZeneca is also in the pipeline in the U.K.

A total of 58 vaccines are in various stages of clinical trials on humans, and another 87 are pre-clinical, meaning they’re being tested on animals, according to The New York Times.

If approved in the U.S., the Pfizer vaccine is expected to be available to health-care workers and first responders by the third week in December, and to the general public in the spring of 2021.

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