Officials in the agricultural sector are sounding the alarm after spotting a yellow-legged hornet in Savannah, Ga.
When it comes to killing honeybees and other pollinators, these insects are devastatingly successful.
Georgia’s agriculture department claimed, “This is the first time a live specimen of this species has been detected in the open United States,” after confirming the insect’s presence with the USDA and the University of Georgia.
Southeast Asia is home to the yellow-legged hornet, or Vespa velutina.
Vespa mandarinia, often known as the Asian giant hornet or, more terrifyingly, the “murder hornet,” for the lethal and savage destruction it wreaks on bee colonies, is a close relative of the northern giant hornet.
Beekeepers and farmers need to beware of the hornet
The yellow-legged hornet is a problem for more than just the honey industry. Almonds, cherries, oranges, and other fruits rely heavily on honey bees for pollination.
Georgia’s major business is agriculture; hence, the state government has declared that “it is imperative that these invasive pests are tracked and eradicated.”
In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration estimated that bee pollination added almost $15 billion to the value of crops.
“About one-third of the food eaten by Americans comes from crops pollinated by honey bees, including apples, melons, cranberries, pumpkins, squash, broccoli, and almonds,” according to the agency.
The University of Georgia and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) are collaborating with the Georgia Department of Agriculture to detect, monitor, and eradicate the new pollinator threat.
The dark abdomen of the newly spotted hornet is marked with yellow bands that broaden toward the rear, and the legs of the insect have yellow tips.
Officials in Georgia have asked the public to report any sightings they may have had.
These are not the wasps you’re looking for
According to Clemson University’s Land-Grant Press, “Vespa are known as the ‘true hornets’ and are exceptional predators,” referring to the genus that includes both the yellow-legged hornet and the northern giant hornet.
They are not the same as the wasps seen in North America. The Asian hornet is a member of the genus Vespa, while the common U.S. insect yellowjackets and the bald-faced hornet are in the genus Vespa.
Importantly, such native bugs don’t engage in bloody battles against bee hives.
“This species happens to prefer honey bees,” stated the University of Florida’s extension service experts about yellow-legged hornets.
In particular, North American and European bee populations that haven’t developed with the predators face several challenges as a result of the two invasion hornet species.
They have a thick exoskeleton that protects them from stings, are stronger than honey bees, and are much larger.
They have their own colonies and use pheromones to attract other hornets to their nests when they discover a food supply, such as a beehive.
According to the Land-Grant Press, after eliminating the defending worker bees, hornets would move on to collect bee larvae. “Most hornets prey on other insects’ larvae, and many species of hornets target nests of other social bees and wasps,” the article continues.
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