Georgia Department of Agriculture eradicates second yellow-legged hornet nest
Posted on Sep 27, 2023 at 11:31 AM
A second nest of yellow-legged Hornets (YLH) has been discovered and destroyed on Wilmington Island near Savannah, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper announced Sept. 20. Harper said Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) staff discovered the nest under a bridge on Wilmington Island on Sept. 15. That evening the same crew of pest management professionals, who eradicated the first YLH nest at a residence on Wilmington Island on Aug. 23, eradicated the second.
On Aug. 9, a Savannah area beekeeper reported an unusual hornet he found on his property to the GDA, which the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed to be the yellow-legged hornet (Vespa velutina). This was the first detection of a live yellow-legged hornet (YLH) on U.S. soil. The non-native, invasive hornet attacks and destroys honeybees.
The GDA has two teams of four deployed in the Savannah area that are actively trapping and surveying for additional YLH nests. These teams have placed 134 traps in the area around the initial detection on Wilmington Island. As of Sept. 20, confirmed detections of the yellow-legged hornet have been made in 12 separate locations around Wilmington Island, Whitemarsh Island, and Thunderbolt, Georgia.
Nine of these detections were reported to the GDA by citizens and three were captured in traps set by GDA staff. The Department continues to explore options to trap and track the yellow-legged hornet more efficiently and effectively. GDA recently received electronic monitoring equipment from the Washington Department of Agriculture, which will be put into use in the coming days.
Yellow-legged hornets build egg-shaped paper nests above ground, often in trees. These nests can become large, housing an average of 6,000 workers.
The YLH is native to tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia and is established in most
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of Europe, parts of the Middle East, and parts of Asia where it isn’t native.
“Since the initial detection of the yellow-legged hornet in Georgia, the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s team of dedicated professionals have been working overtime to find any additional yellow-legged hornets in our state, and thanks to their tireless work, we have eradicated a second yellow-legged hornet’s nest,” said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper. “While this eradication is a win for our state and our agriculture industry, we’ll continue working around the clock to find any additional hornets, eradicate this invasive pest, and protect our state’s agriculture industry. The public has played a vital role in this effort, and we’re asking Georgians to continue reporting any suspected sightings directly to the Department.”
GDA staff located the second nest using a variety of techniques, including capturing, marking, and releasing hornets to estimate the distance from the trapping location to the nest. Additionally, hornets were captured, taken to different locations, and released so their flight direction could be observed. As this process was repeated, the size of the search area was gradually reduced until the nest was located.
Dr. Lewis Bartlett from the University of Georgia and Dr. Jamie Ellis from the University of Florida examined the nest after it was eradicated. They identified developing hornets within the nest and confirmed there was no evidence of the production of reproductive males or queens within the colony at the time of destruction. UGA scientists have sequenced the genetics of hornets from the first nest and evidence suggests these hornets originated in Asia. DNA samples were taken from the second nest, and genetic analysis of these samples is ongoing.
“The University of Georgia remains committed, alongside our colleagues at the Georgia Department of Agriculture, to the task of eradicating the yellow legged hornet from Georgia and the rest of the country,” said University of Georgia Professor of Entomology and Honey Bee Program Director Dr. Keith Delaplane. “While it does not pose a serious risk to humans, pets and livestock, this hornet has proven itself a deadly predator of honey bees and other pollinators in Europe and Asia. An ideal scenario would be the discovery and eradication of every established nest before the colonies have time to issue new queens who overwinter and start the life cycle over again next spring.”
The department’s team of dedicated professionals continues to work with UGA and USDA to eradicate any additional hornets in Georgia, educate the public on the yellow-legged hornet, and conduct outreach to key stakeholder groups such as beekeepers and pest management professionals. Since the initial detection, USDA has provided GDA with additional operating funds to continue our efforts. USDA’s efforts to track, trap and eradicate the yellow-legged has expanded to include Clemson University and the University of Florida.
The GDA asks Georgians, especially beekeepers, to be on the lookout for yellow-begged hornets.
Visit www.gfb.ag/reportyellowleggedhornet for the latest GDA reports or to report a potential sighting. Georgians with additional questions or concerns are encouraged to email email@example.com.
Beekeepers have been key in reporting yellow-legged hornets, and we encourage them to continue monitoring their hives and contact us with any suspicious activity.
Harper warns that the YLH could potentially threaten honey production, native pollinators and Georgia crops that depend on pollination, such as blueberries, fruits and vegetables, if it is allowed to establish a population in our state.
There are many valuable pollinator species native to the U.S. that look like the YLH that don’t pose a threat to honeybees. To see photos of other pollinator species that may be mistaken for yellow-legged hornets and for more info about how beekeepers can protect their hives visit https://gfb.ag/ugacaesylhinfo.
The YLH is a relative of the Northern giant hornet, sometimes referred to as the “murder hornet” for its ability to quickly kill honeybees. This invasive species was last reported in Washington State in 2021.