Invasive yellow-legged hornet spotted in U.S. for first time

Invasive yellow-legged hornet spotted in U.S. for first time

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A new invasive species has been spotted in the U.S. for the first time. A living yellow-legged hornet, also known as an Asian hornet, was detected in Georgia, which state officials say could cause damage to its agricultural industry if left uncontrolled.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture said Tuesday the discovery has the potential to threaten honey production and native pollinators.

Earlier this month, a Georgian beekeeper discovered and reported the insect to the state. The yellow-legged hornet’s identity was then confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

A yellow-legged hornet flying in France
An Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) flies on Sept. 14, 2019, in Loue, France.

JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images


“Georgians play an important role helping GDA identify unwanted, non-native pests, and I want to thank the beekeeper who reported his sighting to us,” said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper in a statement. “Our experienced team of professionals will continue to assess the situation and are working directly with USDA APHIS and UGA to trap, track, and eradicate the yellow-legged hornet in Georgia. “

The next step for officials will be to set up traps to find out if there are more of these pests in the area. If they are able to find a colony, it will be destroyed, Georgia agriculture officials said. The hornet that has already been identified will be DNA tested so that scientists can determine whether the insect originated from Europe of Asia.

The yellow-legged hornet, which is identified as a social wasp species, is native to tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia, and is also established in much of Europe, parts of the Middle East, and parts of Asia where it is not native.

The insect builds egg-shaped nests, often in trees, and can host up to 6,000 worker hornets.

The press release emphasized how important public reports of the insect will be in its eradication efforts. The GDA encourages people to take photos of any insects they believe to be yellow-legged hornets and file a report here. However, it is important to exercise caution around the hornets as they can be dangerous, the department said.

In 2019, a relative of the yellow-legged hornet — the “murder hornet,” or Asian giant hornet — caused alarm after being found in Washington state. The invasive insects, which are now called northern giant hornets, were feared also because of their ability to rapidly kill domestic honeybee and hornet species. Washington state eradicated a giant nest of nearly 1,500 murder hornets in 2021.

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