Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Horrifying Tuesday : Asian Giant Hornet

As any animal with the words "Giant Hornet" in their name, they're generally not a pleasant animal. This week, we're going to talk about the Asian Giant Hornet, which is no laughing matter. These aren't those little raccoons that break into your house and steal some of your dishes; these guys are going to break into your house, bite the crap out of you, steal your furniture, and kidnap your children. Okay, they won't kidnap your children.

"But we will steal your high-quality china"

The Asian Giant Hornet, or the Vespa madarinia is one the world's largest hornet in the entire world. Their body length is about 2 inches, and their wingspan is about 3 inches. Think about it, two inches of flying agony, flying around looking for fine-quality furniture and a nice exposed skin to latch on.

They are native to tropical Eastern Asia, hence the name. Since we know nothing 'good' comes out of any jungle from Asia, we can safely assume that the Asian Giant Hornet isn't going to be a fluffy bear that throws love and magical love at people. The Japanese have even named the critter "suzume bachi" which literally means "Sparrow Hornet", which is disappointingly not "Awesome/hardcore Instant Killer Of All Things Hornet" as I've suggested at the "Give Animals A Local Nickname" conference.

The stinger of the giant hornet is a forth of a inch, which is more than you think. The 6 mm stinger injects potent venom which can become lethal. It has been said that the venom contains a enzyme that is so powerful,  it can dissolve human tissue, not very pleasant. The best part is that, like all hornets, the Asian Giant Hornet has a barbless stinger, which means it doesn't pull their guts out every time they sting someone, allowing multiple stinging.

That doesn't mean they're limited to only stinging though, thanks to their giant mandibles, they can both sting and bite simultaneously, just to rub it in.

Look, even pre-adolescent human children are laughing at you.  

These hornets aren't scared little bunnies that run around with powerful magic swords though. These hornets regularly attack honey bee hives in order to obtain larvae to feed their young. How it works is, a single/group of hornet scouts spot a hive, and create pheromones to lead the other hornets to the hive's location. After that, it'll be like that scene from the movie 300. They begin to raid the nest, killing all of its inhabitants and bringing back food for their babies. A single hornet can kill up to 40 honey bees in a single minute thanks to its large and effective mandibles that can quickly decapitate a bee. In fact, a few hornets can easily destroy a 30,000-bee beehive in only a few hours, leaving hundreds if not thousands of heads, limbs, wings, and half dead bees awaiting death.

Pictured: Official Recreation Of An Hornet Invasion

After defeating the native bees, they feed on the honey and bring back the larvae to feed their young. These hornets aren't kidding around when they fly 25 miles per hour and are even capable of flying 61 miles in a single day. The standard honey bee doesn't stand a chance, since their stings do almost nothing to such a giant insect. The only honey bee that stands a chance, is the Japanese honey bee.

The Japanese honey bee has the advantage of detecting the pheromones used by the hornets to get their hunting buddies over. Once detected, they quickly mob behind the nearest entrance and try to make the hive look as vulnerable as possible. Once the hornet get ready to rip some bee guts out and enter the hive, the bees of almost five hundred honey bees, dog-pile onto the hornet. Knowing that their own venom is basically useless against the hornet, they use a unorthodox method. The Japanese vibrate their flight muscles as fast as possible, holding the hornet down which raises the temperature, and increases the CO2 levels around the hornet. The honey bee can endure slightly higher temperatures than the hornet can, which results in the death of the hornet from the heat, and lack of oxygen. They basically try to smother the poor guy.

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But that doesn't mean those bees run around hunting Asian Giant Hornets of course. In fact, there are known to have zero natural predators to attack the hornet's directly. The only actual threat towards the hornet are humans, in the perspective of throwing pesticides everywhere because we felt like it. Although, some villages in Japan insist that these creatures are a part of a delicious, natural human diet. They are eaten 'raw' sushi-style, or deep fried. Sign me up for seven, batches.

What does all this mean? The minimum kill ratio of a single Asian Giant Hornet is 500:1. Admit it; it's a better kill-streak than any game and/or real-life battle that ever happened.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Simo Hayha.