I’ve mentioned Japanese (Giant) hornets a couple times on Tofugu, but they’ve never gotten their own post. That has made these giant Japanese Hornets angry… and you don’t want to see these things angry, trust me. This post is part of a week long series leading up to Halloween, covering scary things.
First, A Little Background
The Japanese Giant Hornet (also known as Vespa Mandarinia Japonica for all you science people out there) is called 大雀蜂 for a reason. This translates to “giant sparrow bee” in English, which really sums up how big it is. Sure, sparrows aren’t all that big when compared to other birds… but if you’re comparing a bug to a sparrow? That’s friggin’ huge. I’m scared enough of regular bees. Who knows what’s going on in their little, devious brains.
These “little” guys get over 1.6 inches long (some say up to 2, but that seems too terrifying for me to imagine) and have a wingspan of over 2.5 inches. Basically, it looks like a giant bee. They nest in trees, and tend to live in more rural areas (like around mountains, and stuff).
Unlike a lot of bees or hornets, they’re predators. They kill all kinds of insects, and are actually considered beneficial to farmers because they kill a lot of the bugs that tend to be crop pests.
But, they’re not all good. Although their weight to venom ratio isn’t actually that bad compared to other hornets, they’re deadly because they can inject so much venom with each sting. Around 40 people a year die from Japanese Giant Hornet stings, and if you’re bitten you’ll need to get to a hospital. The sting itself is super painful (I hear) and the venom attacks the nervous system as well as damages tissues.
Still, these Japanese Giant Hornets tend to be nice unless provoked… so, just be nice to them, okay? Don’t forget your pleases and thank yous.
Mass Murderer Of Bees
We’ll start with what they’re most known for… 30 Japanese Giant Hornets killing 30,000 European Honey Bees. That means each Japanese Hornet has to take out ONE THOUSAND European honey bees in order to do their share. Holy crap.
And again, in case the first one wasn’t enough… you monster.
In order to do this, there are scout hornets who show up at nests and leave pheromone markers. Then, other Japanese Hornets who are part of the same nest all show up to kill everything. They can kill around 40 European Honey Bees per minute, dismembering them as they go. I’m sure you’ve already watched the video above, but there are heads and thoraxes and legs and wings everywhere. It’s a MASSACRE. When the Anakin Skywalker Honey Bee gets back to the nest he’ll be very upset about this.
Anakin Bee: Hey guys! I got some great nectar today. Buzz buzz.
Anakin Bee: This isn’t funny, stop it! Charlie, where’d you go, buddy?
Anakin Bee: C’mon, fellahs. I have this sweet nectar and…
[Anakin Bee walks into hive, adjusts to darkness to look around]
Now, if you noticed, we’ve only talked about European Honey Bees so far. Yeah, there are other kinds of honey bees out there, but it just so happens European Honey Bees are the best honey makers (which is why people like using them to get honey, and pollinate, and stuff). Sadly, though, they aren’t at all adapted to Japanese predators like the Japanese Giant Hornet.
There are other types of bees, though, including the native Japanese bees. They’ve developed a cool way to fight back so that entire nests don’t get wiped out in the course of a few hours.
Here’s the wild Asian bees version of the sneaky attack.
In order to fend off the giant hornets, they send out a pheromone to alert the whole hive. Then, they lure the giant hornet… to it’s DOOM. Once one bee gets caught (such a brave, brave bee sacrifice), they all swarm the hornet covering him up and buzzing so that they can increase the temperature of the giant hornet. Since the little Asian honey bees have a higher max temperature (2 degrees higher), they can raise the temperature of the hornet to 46 degrees celcius (114 degrees), roasting the giant hornet alive. Then, they remove the scent marks so that no other hornets arrive.
Japanese Hornet Home-Life
Japanese Hornets do have a nest and a home and a queen and all that. All their foraging and killing is so that they can bring home the good stuff (thoraxes and flight muscles are what they tend to grab) for everyone to eat. The main attraction at home, however, is the queen… and if you thought regular Japanese hornets were scary… well…
Basically, the queen is like a billion times more deadly. She also gives birth to a bunch more deadly minions. Then again, it goes both ways. Once she becomes impotent (she’s had a lot of babies, after all) there’s a rebellion (if you can call it that).
Still, these hornets are merciless. Then, like any good uprising, everyone fights against each other (and riots) until new queen(s) arrive. Then, they all start mating with each other. Standard kill-your-queen-then-your-babies-then-riot-then-mate-with-queens sort of situation.
Japanese Hornets Versus Other Giant Bugs
This wouldn’t be a post about giant Japanese insects if it didn’t have giant Japanese insects fighting other Japanese giant insects. Japanese Giant Hornets are pretty big, but there’s other big insects out there as well. The bigger the insect, the more you can bring back to your queen and siblings, right? Sometimes it doesn’t go so great, though. Let’s see how they fare versus various other giant bugs.
Japanese Hornet Vs. Praying Mantis
Oh snap! Praying Mantis attacks the giant wasp, but it turns out the hunter has become the hunted.
Japanese Hornet Vs. 3-Inch Beetle
This has got to be where the idea for the game Mushi King came from. And seriously? Inter-splicing video of the babies hungering for food to represent the direness and desperateness of the hornet’s attack? Okay, fine. That’s awesome. Sadly, the larvae will have to wait another day to get fed because daddy didn’t get paid today.
Japanese Hornet Vs. Yellow Hornets
Finally, it seems the hornets get really desperate. Yellow Hornets are dangerous, but make for some epic video.
This video is all kinds of awesome. It’s like an epic war movie, including sound effects, brutal fighting, and epic, epic music. The Japanese Giant Hornets are hurting for food at this point in the video, and they’re risking all attacking a yellow hornets nest. Yellow Hornets (unlike those weak little European Honey Bees) are actually pretty tough. They aren’t all that small (smaller than the Giant Hornets, for sure, but not tiny or anything) and they have their own lethal sting (plus power in numbers). Still, keep watching and you’ll see that the Giant Hornets got smart.
Once again, gotta dig the epic soundtrack of this whole documentary.
I hope so. Well, you shouldn’t be that scared. Japanese Giant Hornets aren’t all that mean, really, unless you step on them or punch their nest or something. So, just be careful – I’m sure you’ll hear them coming. Despite all the added flying sound effects, these things are still probably pretty buzzy.
Either way, I wouldn’t be a fan of having a Giant Japanese Hornet nest attached to the outside of my house. I’d probably call up this 78 year old hoopy frood to come get rid of them… because… I’m a super weak young’un, or something.
So, how was that? Scary? Sure, not the deadliest bug out there, but probably the one with the most blood on its hands… er… legs… er… tibias?