A “deadly” breed of hornets has swarmed into Georgia and officials are scrambling to stop the rapid increase in population before the insects wreak havoc on the state’s agriculture industry.
The yellow-legged hornet has been detected in at least twelve separate places in the surrounding Savannah area since the insect first appeared in the Peach State last month, the Georgia Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.
The wasp species — and close relative of the murder hornet — is an invasive species that originates from Southeast Asia and feasts on honeybees and other pollinators that drive Georgia’s agriculture industry, the state’s main economic source.
“While it does not pose a serious risk to humans, pets and livestock, this hornet has proven itself a deadly predator of honey bees and other pollinators in Europe and Asia,” Dr. Keith Delaplane, the University of Georgia’s Honey Bee Program director, said in a statement.
“An ideal scenario would be the discovery and eradication of every established nest before the colonies have time to issue new queens who overwinter and start the life cycle over again next spring.”
The first yellow-legged hornet was discovered by a beekeeper in Savannah Aug. 9 who noticed an “unusual” insect on his property.
Since then, officials have discovered and immediately destroyed at least two nests — each of which typically houses up to 6,000 workers — both on Wilmington Island, a community 10 miles east of Savannah.
Although researchers are still awaiting DNA results from the second hive, genetics from the first nest suggest the hornets originated in Asia.
The state Agriculture Department deployed multiple teams in the Savannah area that are dedicated to trapping and surveying for additional nests. At least 134 traps have been laid around the detection zone.
Officials are asking members of the public to report any sightings of the invasive insects, but to be wary about killing any on sight — Georgia is home to several native wasps that can look very similar to the bloodthirsty yellow-legged bugs.
Invasive species like the yellow-legged wasp and the loathed spotted lantern fly cost the world at least $423 billion every year, according to a United Nations-backed report released last week.
More than 37,000 alien species are wreaking havoc on foreign lands after being introduced by human activities, threatening animal extinctions, food insecurity and environmental disasters.
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