The Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia)
The Giant Asian hornet is the world’s largest hornet and has been nicknamed, the Yak-Killer. In 2013, they killed 41 people and sent 1600 people to the hospital in just one Chinese province.
Asian hornets are social insects, like bees, but they don’t make honey like honeybees. They are highly predatory and will attack many species of insects to provide food for their larvae. Their most frequent prey are honeybees. Scouts, when they find a food source, can release chemicals, (just like bees do) to alert their sisters where to find the food source. Once the queen gives the command, her subjects raid the enemy’s nest, wiping out almost all resistance and they steal the fallen enemy’s larvae. They don’t eat the larvae themselves. They chew them up into a paste and deliver them to their own larvae. The larvae, in-turn, produce an amino acid substance that provides sustenance for the hive.
Asian hornets are much larger than bees. In their raids, they are known to decapitate bees with a single bite. The queens also of Giant Hornets can be quite large.
Honey bees, (except for most queens) have barbed stingers which can get stuck in their victim’s skin. Sometimes, because of this, their guts can get ripped out of their body while trying to pull away. Hornets however have smooth stingers and can sting repeatedly. Their stinger is over 6mm long and the venom is very potent. Giant hornets can cause significant damage to skin and deaths are not uncommon. In 2013, 1600 people in a province in China were hospitalized due to attacks by the Giant hornet and 41 people died. In Japan, 40 people die each year due to stings by a close cousin of the Asian Giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia japonica. If allergic, death is almost guaranteed; even more shockingly, deaths have occurred even if NOT allergic.
Though these massive wasps seem almost unfettered, local honeybees have developed some defenses against these voracious killers. The Japanese honeybee has evolved a way to protect themselves from their marauding neighbors. When a scout arrives, the Japanese honeybees allow the scout in and suddenly pounce on her. They completely surround her, displacing oxygen and raising carbon dioxide levels to dangerous levels. They also raise her internal temperature by violently vibrating their bodies against her and each other. This is too much for the scout to tolerate, so she eventually dies. In a twist of fate, if the scout’s chemical message were to still get out, a swarm of her sisters arrive and a full-scale battle begins, with heavy losses on both sides. Unfortunately, European honeybees have no such defense and are completely wiped-out. Watch the tactics of the Giant Asian hornet against a lesser foe below:
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