The Asian giant hornet is, as you can probably tell by the name, a large hornet living in Asia. They live specifically in eastern Asia. Some countries include Korea, China, India, and most commonly in the mountains of Japan. They are the largest hornets in the world and have an extremely painful sting that can be deadly even to humans. Asian giant hornets are very fast, making it extremely unlikely to be able to outrun an angry hornet. These insects are also called giant sparrow bees, but this name makes them sound not as mean as they really are. Males and females are the same except for the fact that males lack stingers.
As the name suggests, these hornets are very large. Workers are up to 2 inches (5 cm) long with a wingspan of at most three inches (7.6 cm). These animals can be as long as the thumb of an adult human. Queen Asian giant hornets are slightly larger than the workers.
These animals prey on a variety of insects including praying mantises and especially honeybees. Sometimes Asian giant hornets will also eat tree sap or sugary fruit. Because these adult animals are unable to digest solids, they consume the liquid of their prey. Frequently, several workers will team up to attack a honeybee hive. When this happens, a scout will find a hive and report back where it is. A group will then come back and spell almost certain death for all members of the hive. In one minute, a single hornet can kill around forty honeybees! With many hornets attacking, an entire hive can be wiped out in a few hours. Watch this video (may be dramatic for young kids) to see the honeybees’ one defense against these killers. Click here to see a video of a successful attack. These animals kill their prey with their jaws/mandibles. They will also then chew up their prey and feed the paste to their young. In return for food, the young give these workers a liquid that seems to give them extra energy to be able to find more food.
This liquid also gives them the energy to go 25 miles per hour and fly at least sixty miles each day! If an Asian giant hornet was racing against Usain Bolt during his world record setting race (9.58 seconds for the 100 Meters at the 2012 London Olympics), the insect would have beaten the human by more than .6 seconds! This is if the hornet maintained a constant speed of 25 miles per hour. Usain Bolt may have run faster, however, if a hornet was chasing him.
Almost all bees, wasps, and hornets have a painful bite, but Asian giant hornets are one of the few that have a deadly sting to all humans. With a stinger that is 1/4 inches (.6 cm) the venom can be ejected deep into the skin. Kidney and liver failure can result from untreated stings. These animals can also spray a skin-eating acid which they aim at the eyes in order to blind an animal or human making a getaway.
In the spring, each queen hornet builds a nest. These nests are usually underground but can be in other sheltered areas including in buildings. One egg is laid in each cell of the hive. Within a week, the larvae hatch and undergo a two week metamorphosis. These adults then become the first part of the workers in the colony. The female keeps on laying more and more eggs until the colony consists of up to seven hundred workers in the late summer. Most of these workers are female. Males leave the hive after reaching adulthood and usually die after mating. The current queens and workers die in the fall, and the unhatched queens will survive through the winter to create a new hive in the spring.
Effects on humans
There are two major bad effects of Asian giant hornets on humans. The first and worst is their sting which kills around forty people each year. While they only attack if they feel threatened, they have a loose definition of threatened. Often a human just walking near the nest is counted as a threat and stung. There are also many people who are not killed but just injured by the sting of these animals. The great honeybee-killing skill of these animals is another mark against them in this section. Often bee farmers will have entire hives destroyed by these huge hornets.
Despite the bad things against these animals, they still have a good side to them. The same liquid given to workers by larvae that gives the workers energy is thought to give humans extra energy too, if you are okay with eating hornet spit. When mice were given this liquid, they showed better endurance while swimming and also displayed better health after swimming. There is, however, no proof that this also works on humans despite claims by some athletes.
Don’t forget to scroll down and leave your guess about what the next animal is!
- Asian giant hornet – KENPEI
- Mystery animal – Rosarinagazo