Oct 17, 2008

When Hornets Attack

I've posted on the Japanese Giant Hornet before. But Erik has forwarded an article which sheds a bit more light on these enormous insects that must be shared.

First off, they're huge. As big as a man's thumb. That's a game ender right there.

Secondly, their eating habits. They love honeybees. In fact, if a hornet finds a hive, it will spray it with its acid/phermone spray and summon its own hive mates (about thirty individuals). Over the next couple of hours, this small tactical team can literally dismember an entire hive of thousands of bees. They rampage through the hive, tear every living bee apart, leaving behind only limbs and body segments, and then carry off the bee larvae to feed to their own wasp larvae. Vespa japonica is a freaky insect.

But that's not all.

Lastly, humans don't want to encounter these in the wild. That same acid spray will be aimed at your eyes. It's a blend of acid and pheromone, the latter of which will summon all nearby wasps to join the stinging fray. Not only will the acid begin to consume your flesh, but the stinging just might finish you off. 40 people die each year in Japan as a result of these attacks.

Thanks, Erik.

Here's some video of a hornet attack on a beehive:


Anonymous said...

Well, you finally did it. I've been reading this blog for ages and I've never been especially bothered by anything you've posted. I don't get fussed by animals and insects easily. But this..... Gah.

It's probably because I stepped on a hive of Yellow Jackets when I was a kid and they all came out as swarm to sting me, but this entry really made me shudder.

Bleah. You got me. You finally got me. I hope you're proud of yourself. Hmph.

Anonymous said...

Well this is a sad post for a Friday!
Honeybees > hornets

As if the poor honeybees didn't have enough problems. =(

Anonymous said...

Aww, I like bees. They make honey, pollenate, and can only be a jerk once before they die. Wasps on the other hand are great big bastards who can all die in a hair spray caused fireball. Humungous vermin wasps are terrible! This is the godzilla of stinging hornets!

Marlewen said...

*looks at comment above*

"Wasps on the other hand are great big bastards who can all die in a hair spray caused fireball." I'll be laughing for days.

I've encountered two of these big thingies. One flew into my dorm room and was fried by my floor lamp (which then had to be toted out into the hall and taken apart so I could find the buggy and smash it for my roomie's safety). I had to beat it a bunch of times before the shoe did any damage. At all. And I have HUGE feet.

The second time, I was outside to feed the dog, and one flew into my head. Just...bzzzCRASH! It hurt.

W. A. Whipple said...

Holy crap - I do NOT ever want to encounter one of these. "Godzilla" is right! Sheez, first the African killer bees, now these things. I had no idea that honeybees had so many predators!

Zanna said...

For those of you who are interested in knowing more about these fascinating, menacing insects, I highly recommend tracking down a copy of the BBC Natural World episode "Buddha, Bees and the Giant Hornet Queen". In it you see the great destruction these hornets wreak against domestic honey bees. But, when a Japanese Buddhist monk's *native* honey bees get attacked, they know the drill- they wait for the hornet to enter the hive, and then pile onto the hornet in a "bee ball", vibrating and raising the heat until they literally cook the hornet to death. The footage of this is beyond amazing... you can probably find a copy if you search the title. :)

Mishqueen said...

Oh my goodness. That was horrible and it will probably revisit me in my dreams tonight.

I cannot believe that they could totally massacre so many bees, just like that.


Vanessa said...

Hmmm, I don't like this tyke, and I love almost all creepy crawlies.
This is a first for me. Nasty guy.

Alison said...

This explains where Mothra came from.

Please don't tell me these bugs are invading other parts of the world...carpenter bees are bad enough; at least they're not agressive.

Anonymous said...

description and pic of "bee ball" cooking hornets...


there's a clip on youtube of it, too, post it when I find it

Anonymous said...

Don't confuse these guys with cicada killer hornets, a (relatively) non-aggressive giganto-hornet native to the US. Oh hey, cicada killers are ugly enough to get their own post!

Anonymous said...

I am a little reluctant to believe that these buggers would spray at your eyes purposely. First and foremost, their concept of "face" is very different from ours. How would they know where to spray, if they can not spot which part of the face is the eye region?

Now I know that wasps are able to recognize one another by the patterns on their face. But that doesn't mean they know these watery things on the front of humans are eyes, and oh, it might be clever to spray into them. With insects you always have to be careful... they see the world in completley different concepts and dimensions. If somebody got the stuff into their eyes, it was probably because the hornet was right in front of his face. Best place to notice that there's a hornet flying around you.

(Though, personally, I hate hornets... cowards. I have a very personal relationship with honeybees...)

Unknown said...

That's a great deal of detail about these killers. The 3rd image is just awesome for me

Anonymous said...

I wonder why the bees didn't fight back?

I've always thought that wasps, bees, and hornets are strange to watch in flight...they never seem to know where they're going, and tend to fly around like they're fighting against the wind even if it's a perfectly still day.

Poor bees, though.

gala_silverstar said...

GAH! just, gah! I am quite disturbed now. I actually saw one of these buggers over the summer during my study abroad session in Japan. At the time I thought "Holy crap thats a big freakin hornet." There must have been a nest somewhere in that empty lot...that I walked by...every day. *shivers* 40 people a year, you say...I could have been a statistic! O_o

Drunken Paladin said...

I need to train one of these dudes and keep him on my porch. I'll name him Jerry.

Ain't no bees going to be flexing my porch with Jerry on guard duty.

Unknown said...

@druken paladin

thats if your pet jerry doesnt go CUJO on you first! ;)

Anonymous said...

I think I've seen the BBC documentary on CBC, or possibly TVO before... native Japanese bees have a defense where they mob the single hornet scout and raise their body temperature to such a degree as to kill it (bees being able to survive a few degrees higher). This keeps the hives of native bees ever a secret from the giant hornets. The bees commonly massacred are of the imported, European variety (which has no such natural defence as would have evolved through co-existence). Supposedly, in rural Japanese bee-keeping communities, there are eloborate shrines dedicated to the 'warrior dead' of hornet-ravaged bee colonies. Japan has a peculiar mix of old warrior and buddhist traditions, and there is strong remorse, and admiration, among the beekeepers for the samurai-like sacrifice of defending honey bees.