The Flying Terrors of Asia and Japan
Asian Giant Hornets—they’re big, bad, and as vicious as bugs come. Their very name sounds ominous. In a world where super-sizing is the way to go, these flying terrors have it all.
Look down at your thumb. That is about the size of these insects. Add in the wingspan of 2.4 inches and it will look even bigger in flight. The Japanese refer to the subspecies living on their island as the giant sparrow bee. These hornets are large enough to be compared to birds. Big body size isn’t all; the giant hornet packs a stinger that is a quarter of an inch long. That’s a bit shorter than the metal part of your phone’s USB plug.
Humans aren’t the hornet’s prey; if you leave them alone they’ll leave you alone. That is, until a person accidentally disturbs a nest. Every hornet will surge out of the nest and attack. They use their large stinger to inject a nasty toxin that destroys red blood cells. At least 30-40 people die each year from the giant hornet and thousands of others are injured. Victims describe the stings as feeling like burning nails. Ten punctures or more will require medical attention.
Don’t suppose that you can outrun them, either. The hornet can fly at a top speed of 25 miles per hour. That is far faster than the average human can run. Fleeing should be the last option. Authorities say that running incites them to follow. Swarms have been known to chase a person over 600 feet, which is the length of two football fields. The best advice is to avoid the nest.
Asian Giant hornets target large and medium sized insects, but they prize the non-native European honeybee. A single Asian Giant hornet can kill up to forty bees a minute. Its powerful mandibles tear through soft neck tissue, easily decapitating the prey. One is not enough; a giant hornet will scout the honeybee entrance and leave pheromone markers. Soon the entire hornet nest descends on the unsuspecting hive. In less than three hours, the entire colony has been devastated. More than 30,000 European honeybees are dead.
After the giant hornets attack the beehive, they will then rip out the bee’s thoraxes, because they price the protein rich wing muscles. Next, they steal the honeybee larvae, and finally the honey. It all goes back to feed the ravenous next generation of giant hornets. The voracious appetite of the Japanese Hornet makes it the friend of many farmers in Japan, since they eat all kinds of bugs. A single hive requires tens of thousands of bugs per day to survive.
Nature provides its own answer
Is there anyway to save the honeybees? The answer is yes. The native Japanese honeybee has created a defense against attacking hornets. When the hornet scout finds a hive, the bees surround the intruder in a buzzing ball. The mass of honeybees begins to vibrate their bodies, raising the temperature inside the ball to 117 degrees. The giant hornet cannot tolerate 117 degrees and dies before it can alert its sisters. Incidentally, the native honeybees of Japan can withstand temperatures up to 118-122 degrees.
Asian hornets are big, bad, fast, vicious, and hungry. Killing more than people than bears or snakes, giant hornets are the most dangerous animals in Japan. But don’t worry; just as Godzilla has chosen to terrorize only the isles of Japan, these flying behemoths seem to prefer the far east.
If you do have a wasp problem however, the wasps here can still be vicious. Better call a professional.