Atlanta, GA - Today, The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) announced, in coordination with USDA and the University of Georgia, confirmation of the detection of a living yellow-legged hornet in Georgia for the first time. This is the first detection of a live yellow-legged hornet in the open United States. GDA is asking the public to report any sightings of the yellow-legged hornet, a non-native hornet species, that, if allowed to establish in Georgia, could potentially threaten honey production, native pollinators, and our state’s number one industry - agriculture.
Earlier this month, a beekeeper in Savannah, GA, found an unusual hornet on his property and reported it to the GDA. On August 9, 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the University of Georgia’s (UGA) identification of this insect as a yellow-legged hornet (YLH; Vespa velutina).
"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, 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," said Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper. "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 yellow-legged hornet is a social wasp species that constructs egg-shaped paper nests above ground, often in trees. These nests can become large, housing an average of 6,000 workers. The yellow-legged hornet is native to tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia. It is also established in most of Europe, parts of the Middle East, and parts of Asia where it isn’t native.
The GDA has a team of experienced scientists in their Pest Program, and we are actively collaborating with USDA and academic experts. Together, we are developing an operational plan to trap, track, and eradicate the yellow-legged hornet in Georgia. The plan will begin with trapping, and APHIS and GDA will set out traps and survey for this pest to determine if additional yellow-legged hornets are in the area. If a colony is discovered through reporting, trapping, or tracking, the colony 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.