A second nest belonging to the invasive yellow-legged hornet has been found and destroyed on Wilmington Island near Savannah, the Georgia Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.
Located Friday beneath a bridge and dismantled that same day by state crews, the nest was later examined by researchers who found no evidence that it was spawning any new queens or males.
“I think that that is very significant to point out because the production of males and queens is essential to the establishment of a new colony or a new nest,” Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper said at a news conference. “The fact that this process has not started happening yet in this particular nest increases our chance of successful and complete eradication.”
However, Harper cautioned that the species — which preys on bees and other pollinators crucial to crops — could not be officially declared eradicated until three years have passed without any sightings.
The nest’s discovery came on the heels of last month’s identification of the first known yellow-legged hornet nest in the U.S., which was found high up in a tree near the Savannah Bee Company’s commercial bee farm on Wilmington Island.
Standing next to a poster in the style of a Wild West-era “most wanted” bulletin — with its culprit depicted as a yellow-legged hornet — Harper said that individual specimens had also been spotted on the lam in Whitemarsh Island and the town of Thunderbolt.
When asked how the species may have been introduced, he said that it was “very likely” it arrived through the Port of Savannah, which is among the nation’s busiest.
The majority of yellow-legged hornets have been found by citizens rather than researchers and pest removal experts, underscoring the importance of public participation in the eradication effort.
“Education and public outreach and the public’s involvement is going to be very, very key to our success in this,” said University of Georgia Extension entomologist Tim Davis. “We need them to keep reporting, keep looking, keep trapping … so that we can we can continue to define where they are.”
Davis explained how that process works: After receiving a report of a live specimen, crews capture, tag and release the hornet back into the wild, before monitoring its flight path in the hopes of pinpointing their final destination.
He called the work “tedious,” but added that a more sophisticated method will soon be deployed: “little GPS trackers — we can glue those to the thorax, but, you know, you can’t get those on Amazon apparently,” Davis said with a laugh. “So, it’s going to be a few weeks before we can get those.”
Additionally, crews plan to deploy similar devices sent to them by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, whose staff in recent years have dealt with a relative of the yellow-legged hornet: the Asian giant hornet, which made headlines as the “murder hornet” when it threatened pollinators and crops in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.
This story comes to The Current GA through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.