A Savannah, Ga., beekeeper discovered an invasive species for the first time in the U.S.
The beekeeper discovered an invasive yellow-legged hornet earlier this month and reported it to the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA), according to a statement released by the agency. The GDA, in partnership with the University of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, identified the insect as an invasive yellow-legged hornet, marking the first detection of the species in “the open United States.”
The invasive hornet is described as a “social wasp species,” meaning it is known to construct communal paper nests, often found hanging from trees or in tree hollows. Also known as Vespa velutina hornets or “Asian hornets,” the wasps’ nests are generally egg-shaped and can house up to 6,000 workers.
The species could threaten honey production and native pollinators if it establishes a population, according to the GDA.
What they look like
Vespa velutina, also known as the Asian hornet or yellow-legged hornet, is native to tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia, though it has established a presence as an invasive species in most of Europe, parts of the Middle East, and parts of Asia, according to the GDA.
The species constructs egg-shaped paper nests each year, with massive colonies of up to 6,000 peaking in size and activity around mid to late summer.
The yellow-legged hornet is sometimes mistaken for the Northern giant hornet, which made headlines as the “murder hornet” in recent years, though it is generally smaller than the NGH. Workers can be as small as half the size of the NGH, whereas queens are a bit larger at three quarters the size. Their most distinctive feature are legs that are mostly or partially covered in yellow, giving them their name. Body and head colors vary.
According to the GDA, the hornets feed on a variety of large insects and prey on honeybee colonies and other pollinators that play a significant role in the health of the U.S. ecosystem. In Georgia specifically, they pose a risk to agriculture, the state’s main economic driver.
What to do if you see one
They advise taking photos of the suspected hornets and comparing their appearance to pictures available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, as they can look similar to native species that pose no threat.
The GDA also asks that you include the following information with any form submission:
- Name and contact information
- Location and date of the sighting
- If possible, a photograph of the hornet. If not, a description of the size of the insect, the color of the head and body, and what it was doing
- Location and approximate height of the nest (if found)
- The direction the hornet(s) flew when flying away