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The Asian Giant Hornet, dubbed recently by the US media as “Murder Hornets” are huge. In fact, the Asian Giant Hornet is the largest hornet in the world. Recently discovered to have made it to US shores, it’s causing quite a stir in the news, but why? Let’s check out 10 facts about the so-called “Murder Hornets.”
10. They can measure up 2 inches in length
As we previously mentioned, the Asian Giant Hornet is the largest hornet in the world. How large, you ask? Well, the average length of this Goliath is 1.5 inches, with the queen growing up to 2 inches long—about the width of a credit card.
Their wingspan is about 3 inches, double the length of its body, and their stinger which measures a quarter of an inch (almost the length of a standard hypodermic needle), can penetrate a beekeepers suit. Ouch!
9. They have several ways to communicate
“Murder Hornets” send messages to each other in three ways—through visual, chemical and audio cues. When their antennae are damaged, they use visual prompts and scent marking to help other members of their colony find food sources. As a matter of fact, it is the only known species of wasp that uses odor to steer its colony toward a food supply.
One interesting use of chemicals to induce behavior is the method by which the queen forms her “court.” Like many living creatures, she secretes pheromones, which are ingested by a group of workers as they lick and bite her. It is believed that she uses the pheromones to communicate directly with her court, and with other workers through the court’s absorption of those chemicals.
Asian Giants also use sound to send messages. Hungry larvae let workers know that they are hungry by dragging their mandibles against the nest’s cells, and mature hornets click their mandibles as a warning to anyone or anything trespassing on their territory.
8. They move FAST
The “Murder Hornet” may be big, but they’re still built for speed. These supersonic insects can make a 60 mile journey in one day, at a speed of 25 miles an hour. Their flying ability can probably be attributed to their massive wingspan, strength and aggressive nature.
They are the ultimate go-getters. Whether their hunting for food or defending their territory, when they see something they want—they go get it. Make sure you don’t get in the way!
7. They prefer to nest underground
Asian Giants build their nests almost exclusively underground. Most nests are constructed around rotten roots, and some can be found at the base of hollow trees.
Instead of enlisting workers or drones, the queen scouts out the location of her nest. Efficiency is key to a successful nesting cycle, so she makes sure the spot is furnished with tunnels dug by the previous tenants. Her motto is, “Work smart…not hard.”
6. They are highly predatory
They’re called “Murder Hornets” for a reason…they’re vicious killers. Asian Giants prey on medium to large-sized insects, including other types of hornets, wasps, mantises, and even other Giant colonies—but their favorite dish is the honeybee.
One to three scouts stealthily approach the beehive while releasing pheromones that will lead their hornet cohorts to the hive. A lone hornet can kill more than 40 bees per minute, and a few hornets can annihilate a colony of honeybees. Since the hornets are five times the size of the honeybees, and have a thick, armor-like exoskeleton, it’s never a fair fight. Their efficiency is due mostly to their not-so-secret weapon—a set of machete-like mandibles.
5. Adults can’t digest protein
The hornets kill with precision. They swiftly decapitate their victims, drink their fluids, and chew the remains into a protein paste to feed to the ravenous, rapidly-growing larvae.
This paste is composed of the most nutritious body parts, such as muscles used for flying, most of which are located in the thorax. The larvae reciprocate by secreting a liquid made of amino acids that the adults, in turn, use as a dietary supplement. Wow, everyone loves a good smoothie!
4. Honeybees can stop an attack
Well…the Japanese honeybee can. While European honeybees have no means of defending themselves from a “Murder Hornet” attack, Japanese honeybees use a defense strategy that can be quite effective.
As the hornet scout approaches the beehive, an alert group of 100 or more honeybees is tipped off by the scent of the hornet’s pheromones. They surround the hive entrance, wait for the scout, and as it enters the nest, they form a ball around it and vigorously vibrate their flight muscles. The vibration raises the temperature of the ball to 115 degrees Fahrenheit as well as the carbon dioxide level. The scout is “cooked” before it summons the other hornets to the beehive. In the face of a murderous rampage (as Barney Fife would say) they “nip it in the bud.”
3. Some people drink their secretions
The adult hornets aren’t the only ones getting “juiced.” Companies in Asia and Europe have started to produce energy drinks and nutritional supplements containing either natural or synthetic Vespa amino acid mixture, claiming that it has several benefits to humans, including endurance and performance enhancement, and in Japan, Asian Giants are sometimes eaten fried or raw.
Although some people swear by the health benefits of “larvae juice,” lab tests have proven inconclusive.
2. They kill at least 40 people a year
…But they don’t attack humans unless provoked. If you’re ever stung by these behemoths, it won’t be because they’re looking for trouble. Asian Giants typically attack people who disturb their nests, either on purpose or by accident.
A healthy person with no underlying conditions and no venom allergy can withstand up to 10 stings without medical attention. It is recommended that anyone stung more than ten times seek medical help immediately.
Most fatalities can be attributed to anaphylactic shock, cardiac arrest, or multiple organ failure after someone is stung several times.
1. They typically are not interested in us
Yes, number one and two are basically the same, but we figured it warrants repeating—they typically don’t attack humans unless provoked.