A live yellow-legged hornbill found in Georgia is the first to be found in the United States.
A cousin of the larger northern giant hornet, the yellow-footed hornet also preys on bees.
Native to Southeast Asia, the yellow-legged hornbill can grow nests with an average of 6,000 workers.
Late last summer, scientists officially identified the yellow-footed hornet as a Vespa velutinanear Savannah, Georgia, putting the American agricultural community on alert. It’s about the same reaction as discovering a giant northern horn Vespa mandariniaalso called Asian giant hornet or kill in Washington, which occurred in 2019.
The yellow-legged hornet poses a threat to our state’s bees and other pollinators, according to a news release from the Georgia Department of Agriculture. It is imperative that these invasive pests are tracked and eradicated.
Native to tropical and subtropical Southeast Asia, the yellow-legged hornworker is often about half the size of the killer hornet. The queen is about three-quarters the size of her cousin species. The legs of the hornet, given its unique coloring, are partly or mostly yellow, and the colors of the hornet’s body and head can vary.
Known as a social wasp species, yellow-legged hornets’ egg-shaped paper nests are commonly found in trees, with an average of 6,000 workers. To feed these workers, the hornets hunt insects. And that includes pollinators like bees.
This species happens to prefer bees, according to the University of Florida Extension Service, as reported NPR.
Add the larger size of the yellow-legged hornet to their strength and thick exoskeleton, and you usually don’t get a good outcome for a bee when attacked by a hornet. Clemson Universitys Land-Grant Press expansion calls Vespa species of true hornbills and exceptional predators.
Most hornets prey on the larvae of other insects, and many species of hornets target the nests of other social bees and bumblebees, the Clemson experts wrote. To make it all happen, the hornets descend on the bees’ nest, kill the workers protecting the nest, and feast on the caterpillars’ veritable devastation to the existence of an entire local bee colony.
Also called the bee hawk for the way it attacks hives in dive-bomb-style advances, if the yellow-legged hornet does take hold in the United States, it’s a concern for bees and the agricultural community that feeds the nation.
It Atlanta Journal-Constitution states that pollinator-dependent crops in Georgia alone are valued at $430 million annually. In addition, Georgia has a beekeeping industry that maintains apiaries across the country, shipping colonies to farms to pollinate crops.
Insect hunting is now in the spotlight. So far, no complete hornet colony has been found, only two individual hornets on the same property. The two hornets were spotted near the Port of Savannah, and University of Georgia lead scientist and bee expert Keith Delaplan believes (as he told the paper) that the insects traveled to the US on a container ship. Along with their love of attacking bees, the yellow-legged hornet enjoys rotting fish, so officials plan to lure additional hornets with feeding stations and then follow them to any potential nests.
In Washington, the states Department of Agriculture employed a similar strategy after finding kill antlers. After luring the hornets, the team used radio transmitters to detect and trap the pests. So far in 2023, there have been no murder horn cases in Washington.
Of course, the yellow-footed hornet may be a different story, as Europe was at this point unsuccessful in nearly two decades of efforts to rid the continent.
This guy is bad news for bees, Delaplan said AJC:. It is a ruthless predator and we have nothing like it in this country.
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