An invasive hornet species was spotted this month in the United States for the first time, and state officials in Georgia, fearing it could harm the agriculture industry, said they were working with federal officials and academic experts to eradicate it.
A beekeeper in Savannah, Ga., discovered an unusual insect on his property and reported it to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, which worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the University of Georgia to confirm that it was a yellow-legged hornet.
Native to tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia, the yellow-legged hornet could threaten the state’s honey production, native pollinators and agriculture industry, the state’s Agriculture Department said in a statement on Tuesday.
The species’ appearance is troubling because the hornet preys on honeybees, said Chuck Bargeron, director of the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia.
“What everyone is most concerned about is the potential impact this will have to honeybees and the domino effect from there to other areas of agriculture,” Mr. Bargeron said.
Honeybees are essential to the agriculture industry. They pollinate about $15 billion worth of crops in the United States every year, including more than 130 types of fruits, nuts and vegetables, according to the U.S.D.A.
The yellow-legged hornet is established in most of Europe and parts of the Middle East in addition to parts of Asia. It’s a social wasp species that constructs egg-shaped paper nests above ground, typically in trees. Each nest houses 6,000 hornets on average.
Georgia’s Agriculture Department, the U.S.D.A. and academic experts are creating a plan to eradicate the hornets. They intend to set out traps and survey the area where the yellow-legged hornet was spotted, the state Agriculture Department said in a statement.
It is unclear how long it will take to eradicate the species because it’s too early to know how many of the hornets are currently in Georgia, Mr. Bargeron said.
If a colony is discovered through reporting, trapping or tracking, it will be eradicated, state officials said. The U.S.D.A. will analyze the hornet’s DNA to determine if it is related to European populations of this species.
“Our partnership is already paying off as our teams come together to apply the science and technology in our response planning,” said Mark Davidson, a deputy administrator with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “The public can also play a critical role by reporting potential sightings of the hornet to help eradicate this pest.”
The state Agriculture Department created an online form for people to report potential sightings.