Georgians asked to watch for yellow-legged hornets
Posted on Aug 22, 2023 at 20:00 PM
By Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau
The yellow-legged hornet, which attacks and destroys honeybees, has flown into Georgia. In early August, a Savannah beekeeper reported an unusual hornet he found on his property to the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA).
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the University of Georgia’s (UGA) identification of this insect as a yellow-legged hornet (Vespa velutina), the GDA announced Aug. 15. This is the first detection of a live yellow-legged hornet (YLH) on U.S. soil.
GDA is asking the public to report possible sightings of the non-native species. 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.
YLHs can be dangerous, and everyone is encouraged to use caution in the event of a sighting. If you see a suspicious hornet, try to take a photo to send to the GDA but keep your distance.
Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler 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 the state.
“Georgians play an important role in helping identify unwanted, non-native pests. I want to thank the beekeeper who reported his sighting to us, as well as our partners at the University of Georgia and USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service for working swiftly to confirm its identity,” Harper said. “Our experienced team of professionals will continue to assess the situation and are working directly with USDA APHIS and UGA to eradicate the yellow-legged hornet in Georgia.”
The YLH constructs 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 of Europe, parts of the Middle East, and parts of Asia where it isn’t native.
The GDA Pest Program is collaborating with USDA and academic experts to develop a plan to trap, track, and eradicate the yellow-legged hornet in Georgia. APHIS and GDA will set out traps and survey to determine if additional YLHs are in the area.
If a colony is discovered, it will be eradicated. APHIS is providing technical expertise, technology, and outreach support as well as analyzing the hornet’s DNA to determine if it is related to European populations of this species.
“The hornet is a voracious predator of honeybees. Even if it fails to kill a colony, its threatening behavior at hive entrances can intimidate bees from foraging and cause the colony to decline,” UGA Entomologist Keith Delaplane said. “Its nickname is the ‘bee hawk’ for good reason. They're very agile — they can swoop down and capture honeybees in the air and from the front of their hives, and in this manner, a few individuals can depopulate an apiary over a matter of days. This is an aggressive problem. This will be something that beekeepers will have to learn to deal with, whether through trapping or through methods of excluding them from their hives.”
Beekeeper-oriented information on the yellow-legged hornet is available on the UGA Bee Program website.
There are many hornet species native to the U.S. that look similar to the YLH that do not pose a threat to honeybees. Many of these are valuable pollinators. To see photos of other pollinator species that may be mistaken for yellow-legged hornets and for more info 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.