Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Creature Feature: Japanese Giant Hornet.

See this hornet? It killed a Japanese office worker.

(Image found here, and used without permission...I'm a very bad girl. I am not making a cent off of this blog, but the caption was too fun to resist. I mean, I actually know how to say that...)

Japan has all sorts of weird stuff. The Japanese eat deadly pufferfish and have a strange fixation on young girls, more porn than a book of Greek myths (including boob pudding), too much cuteness for the average sane person, and some of the weirdest pizza flavors on the planet. There are plans to make a giant mech a national monument. They already have their fair share of weird.

Japan is also a culture on an archipelago. Being restricted to islands always opens the door for weird, fascinating wildlife found nowhere else on earth.

Weird, fascinating, horrifying wildlife. Sounds like hentai potential to me!

Although Asia is loaded with killer hornets elsewhere, the Japanese subspecies, Vespa mandarinia japonica, remains the most notorious. It can fly at speeds of up to 25 MPH, can go nonstop for 62 miles a day and has a neurotoxic venom that kills 40 people per year on average. They are not aggressive towards humans, but do not need to be; should you mess with one, you are f*cked.

As an afterthought, they are also huge - around 2.4 inches long. That's big for a hornet.
I hope this person was careful!

With the efficiency of a ninja army, these hornets disassemble hives of European bees (Apis mellifera). This is no problem for Japanese bees (Apis cerona japonica), who can gang up in huge clouds around their giant enemy. The wasps forage for their hives, bringing back only the most nutritious body parts to feed to their siblings. Even the insects in this archipelago dice their food elegantly.

Despite this hornet's terrifying speed and deadly venom, they are considered beneficial. Like many vespids, these giant hornets remove pests from crops. That corn on the cob on your 4th of July picnic table was probably saved by a wasp, so, although you do not like them flying around your soda, it might not be a good idea to kill them. That goes double for a wasp that can kill you.

Also, the hornets are apparently quite tasty, and can be trained to make amazing pieces of art:

(Note: Consider this a teaser for another column that I will officially start on July 5th. It will be updated weekly, and will showcase some of the world's weirdest eats. American food is not particularly weird, we just have HORRIBLE food standards! EVERYTHING WE EAT IS POISON!)


  1. I think they're rather handsome, myself.

    But then I've never been afraid of bees or wasps. I was only bee stung once as a kid, and honestly it didn't really have of an effect-- didn't swell up or anything much. but mosquito bites really f*** my s*** up OTOH.

  2. Yeah, I like them, too. Reminds me: I should get into Ichneumonidae...