Yellow Legged Hornet
In August 2023, the Georgia Department of Agriculture reported that a live yellow legged hornet, Vespa velutina, was collected in Savannah, GA, and the identification was confirmed by specialists at the University of Georgia in Athens and the US Department of Agriculture. This marks the first U.S. detection.
At present, no yellow-legged hornets have been found in South Carolina.
The yellow legged hornet (YLH) is a predatory insect that commonly feeds on other social bees and wasps, including western honey bees. Originally from southeast Asia, the yellow legged hornet was introduced into France in 2004 where it quickly spread across much of western Europe. Subsequently, beekeepers reported colony losses resulting from yellow legged hornet attacks. Establishment of this exotic pest in the US poses a significant threat to our already embattled beekeeping enterprises.
The threat to human health is equivalent to that of other stinging insects/wasps and not heightened because it’s invasive status.
Protecting South Carolina’s Beekeeping Operations
Clemson supports the beekeeping industry statewide through research and extension with its Apiculture and Pollinator Program and provides disease and pest protection through its Apiary Inspection Program, housed within its Regulatory Services unit.
Clemson has developed resources to raise awareness within the beekeeping community about this potential pest and to help beekeepers and the public identify the yellow legged hornet and distinguish it from similar native insects. A thorough discussion of hornet biology and identification is covered in this publication.
The Apiary Inspection Program has developed a public reporting tool and will conduct investigations of plausible reports. Also, the Apiary Inspection Program is placing traps in counties bordering the Savannah area to determine if the hornet is present in South Carolina and monitor for this potential pest. Clemson’s regulatory services will work with federal officials to confirm suspected specimens and respond to active hornet colonies if they are located. At present, no yellow-legged hornets have been found in South Carolina.
Clemson University is asking for public assistance with monitoring for and reporting unusually hornet activity, especially around honey bee hives. Submit photos of suspected hornets using the YLH 123 survey.
More detailed information about yellow legged hornets is provided in this publication. Other questions about hornet biology and management can be directed to the Clemson Apiculture and Pollinator Program.
Identifying the Yellow Legged Hornet vs. European Hornet
Yellow Legged Hornet
Frontal view of a yellow-legged hornet head with shallowly incised clypeus. The genae are not pronounced. Image credit: Allan Smith-Pardo, Invasive Hornets, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org.
Dorsal view of a yellow-legged hornet thorax highlighting variable back color and yellow bands which get wider towards the tip. Image credit: Allan Smith-Pardo, Invasive Hornets, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org.
Frontal view of a European hornet head showing black band between antennal bases and a shallowly incised clypeus. The genae are not pronounced. Image credit: Allan Smith-Pardo, Invasive Hornets, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org.
Lateral view of a European hornet body showing sinuous yellow bands. The genae are not pronounced. Image credit: Allan Smith-Pardo, Invasive Hornets, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org.