A yellow-legged hornet (Vespa velutina, formerly called Asian hornet). Gilles San Martin / CC BY-SA 2.0
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An individual of the Vespa velutina species, also known as the yellow-legged hornet, has been found live in the U.S. for the first time. The hornet was found near Savannah, Georgia and is a predator of honey bees and other native pollinators.
The yellow-legged hornet is native to Southeast Asia and is related to invasive murder hornets, or Vespa mandarinia, which were first spotted in the U.S. in late 2019. Both species are dangerous predators of honey bees.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture identified the first live specimen of the yellow-legged hornet and confirmed the finding with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the University of Georgia.
“The yellow-legged hornet poses a threat to honeybees and other pollinators in our state. These pollinators play a significant role in Georgia’s agriculture industry, the state’s main economic driver, and it is imperative that these invasive pests are tracked and eradicated,” the Georgia Department of Agriculture said in a statement. “We are working with USDA APHIS and UGA to trap, track, and eradicate these pests and will continue to assess the situation as new information becomes available and allocate additional resources as need[ed].”
The yellow-legged hornets are smaller than the murder hornets, about half the size or around 0.80 inches long, according to iNaturalist. Each nest can shelter about 6,000 workers on average. The hornets are considered social wasps that will target bee and wasp nests for feeding, NPR reported. They feed on many different insects, including important pollinators in Georgia.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture warned that if the yellow-legged hornet spreads, it could threaten native pollinators and honey production. It would also impact agriculture.
As such, the state agriculture department is requesting for people to report sightings of the yellow-legged hornet in Georgia to an online form. These hornets have distinctive yellow legs, but may look similar to other native wasps that are not predators of honey bees. The department urges people to be cautious near these hornets, which can be aggressive.
Outside of Georgia, anyone who finds what could be a yellow-legged hornet should contact their local agriculture department to report the sightings.
Meanwhile, officials in Georgia will establish traps to look for any additional yellow-legged hornets near where this live specimen was found, CBS News reported. If officials find a colony of these hornets, the colony will be destroyed.
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