UF/IFAS experts urge residents to watch for, report predatory yellow-legged hornets

The spotting of a new predatory hornet in Georgia could mean trouble for Florida’s imperiled honey bees if it spreads further South.

To track the spread of the yellow-legged hornet, scientifically named Vespa velutina, UF/IFAS honey bee experts are working with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to spread the word on what residents can do if they see or catch one of these hornets.

“Honey bees in North America have no natural defenses against the yellow-legged hornet, so keeping this species from making a home in Florida is of the utmost importance to our honey bee populations and thus our food supply,” said Amy Vu, state specialized program extension agent for the University of Florida/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory.

Vespa velutina feeding on nectar.
Credit: Karine Monceau, from Monceau et al. 2014

The Vespa velutina is an invasive hornet that preys on honey bees and honey bee larva. The first United States sighting of the predator, which has already damaged Europe’s bee populations, was last week in Savannah, Georgia, by the Georgia Department of Agriculture after a backyard beekeeper spotted, captured and reported two hornets.

The yellow-legged hornet is smaller, but similar to the Vespa mandarinia, known by its nickname the “murder hornet,” which has a distinct orange mark on its head.

The yellow-legged hornet is best identified by its yellowish-white-colored legs, is about 1.2 centimeters to 3 centimeters long, and has a broad orange-yellow face with large, prominent eyes. The thorax and abdomen are mostly black with a single yellow section near the end of the abdomen, according to UF/IFAS informational documents.

The yellow-legged hornet is often mistaken with the commonly seen European hornet, Vespa crabro, which is not a substantial threat to bees. The European hornet does not have yellow/white legs. European hornet samples should not be submitted, if possible.

To report a suspected yellow-legged hornet email dpihelpline@fdacs.gov or call the FDACS hotline at 1-888-397-1517.


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The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.

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Posted: August 23, 2023

Category: Agriculture, Pests & Disease, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension, UF/IFAS Research

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