Yellow-Legged Hornet Discovered In Georgia: Hunters Asked To Report Sightings

The impacts of this non-native cousin of Asian 'murder hornets' could hurt honeybee production and agriculture if established.

Brad Gill | August 18, 2023

As deer hunters begin their usual late-summer chores of trimming lanes, securing stands and filling feeders, they could play a part in putting a stop to the spread of a brand-new species of hornet that has been discovered in Georgia, the first sighting in the United States.

According to a press release this week from the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA), a beekeeper in Savannah found an unusual hornet on his property in early August and reported it to the GDA. On Aug. 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the University of Georgia’s (UGA) identification of this insect as a yellow-legged hornet (Vespa velutina).

The yellow-legged hornet is native to tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia. It is also established in most of Europe, parts of the Middle East and parts of Asia where it isn’t native.

GDA is asking the public to report any sightings of the yellow-legged hornet. Although only two yellow-legged hornets were sighted, if a colony is allowed to establish in Georgia, it could potentially threaten honey production, native pollinators and our state’s number one industry— agriculture.

“Georgians play an important role helping GDA identify unwanted, non-native pests, and I want to thank the beekeeper who reported his sighting to us, as well as our partners at the University of Georgia and USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service for working swiftly to confirm its identity,” said Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper. “Our experienced team of professionals will continue to assess the situation and are working directly with USDA APHIS and UGA to trap, track and eradicate the yellow-legged hornet in Georgia.”

WRD Game Management & The Yellow-legged Hornet 

Information about the yellow-legged hornet doesn’t have WRD Game Management biologists concerned at the moment, although they admit they know very little about the stinging bug.

“I hadn’t heard anything about this new hornet until (the) email,” said Tina Johannsen, assistant chief of WRD’s Game Management Section. “I asked around and no one else had any info either. Of course, we’re always concerned when a non-native plant or animal shows up, because we all have to find out the hard way which ones are going to be really detrimental—we have to wait and see. And by the time we know, it’s a major problem, it’s always far too late to eradicate it.”

Still, any negative affects to Georgia’s agriculture puts all citizens in a bind.

“Hunters are a great group to share this info with because we spend time in the woods and fields,” said Tina.

Again, Tina emphasized that she wouldn’t know a yellow-legged hornet if it landed on her hand. However, she uses the Seek by iNaturalist app for identifying plants and animals.

What’s Next?

According to the GDA, the yellow-legged hornet is a social wasp species that constructs egg-shaped paper nests above ground, often in trees. These nests can become large, housing an average of 6,000 workers. GDA says yellow-legged hornets can be dangerous, and they encourage everyone to use caution in the event of a sighting.

The GDA has a team developing an operational plan to trap, track and eradicate the yellow-legged hornet in Georgia. The plan will begin with trapping where the discovery was made to see if additional yellow-legged hornets are in the area. If more hornets are discovered, plans are for them to be eradicated.

Hunters Report Sightings Of Yellow-legged Hornets

GDA’s website has been updated with additional information regarding the yellow-legged hornet and an easily accessible form to report potential sightings. This information is prominently displayed on the homepage of the website. Georgians with additional questions or concerns are encouraged to email GDA at [email protected].

GDA asks that the below information be included with reports, if possible:

• Your name and contact information.
• The location of the sighting.
• Date of sighting.
• If you can, safely take photograph(s) of the hornet (GDA generally can only confirm a report with a photo or specimen).
• Location and approximate height of the nest if found (Is it in a tree? Approximately how high is the nest?).
• If you have no photo, please include a description of the size of the insect, the color of the head and body, and what it was doing.
• Description of the hive loss/damage (if no photo is available).
• The direction the hornet(s) flew when flying away.

GDA does warn those out in the woods this fall that there are many domestic hornet lookalikes that are native to the United States and do not pose a threat to honeybees. Many of them are valuable pollinators. USDA has a photo gallery of lookalikes. To get to the gallery, go to, and search for “yellow-legged hornet.”

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