CLEMSON, S.C. — Exotic hornets present a significant threat to apiculture. Recent introductions of the yellow-legged hornet (YLH) to Europe and the Asian giant hornet (AGH) to North America, both known to attack and destroy honey bee colonies, have made it critical that for beekeepers, regulators, and the general public to be able to detect and identify these exotic hornets. A basic understanding of hornet biology and diagnostic characters will help with early detection and management to minimize the potential impacts to apiculture in the eastern United States if they are introduced to the region.
The Importance of Apiculture
Worldwide, western honey bees (Apis mellifera) are critical for modern agriculture, pollinating many crops and producing tangible goods such as honey, beeswax, and other hive products. In the United States, western honey bees are essential pollinators of almonds, cherries, blueberries, and several other fruit crops. Western honey bees also increase the production and profitability of many other crops and livestock forages, contributing more than $20 billion to the US economy.1 Honey bees are important to South Carolina, which has a growing apiculture industry and hosts dozens of commercial migratory beekeepers who manage thousands of beehives. In recent decades, the number of honey bee colonies in the United States has declined due to several factors, including the introduction of exotic pests such as small hive beetles and varroa mites.2 Beekeepers manage current pests, but there is concern that the introduction of other exotic pests of honey bees could further contribute to colony losses and increase beekeeper management expenses.
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–Benjamin Powell, Clemson Extension