Asian giant hornet
Scientific classification :
Binomial name Vespa mandarinia Smith, 1852
The Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, also known as the Japanese hornet and
known colloquially as the yak-killer hornet, is the world's largest hornet,
native to temperate and tropical Eastern Asia. Its body length is approximately
50.8 mm (2.0 in), with a wingspan of about 76 mm (3 in). Queens may reach a
length of 55 mm (2.2 in). Due to its size, it is known in Japan as the giant
sparrow bee (大雀蜂 ,oo-suzumebachi?).
The head of the hornet is orange and quite wide in comparison to other hornet
species. The compound eyes and ocelli are dark brown, and the antennae are dark
brown with orange scapes. The clypeus (the shield-like plate on the front of the
head) is orange and coarsely punctured; the posterior side of the clypeus has
narrow, rounded lobes. The mandible is large and orange with a black tooth
(inner biting surface).
The thorax and propodeum (the segment which forms the posterior part of the
thorax) of the Asian giant hornet has a distinctive golden tint and a large
scutellum (a shield-like scale on the thorax) that has a deeply-impressed medial
line; the postscutellum (the plate behind the scutellum) bulges and overhangs
the propodeum. The hornet's forelegs are orange with dark brown tarsi (the
distal—furthest down—part of the leg); the midlegs and hindlegs are dark brown.
Wings are a dark brownish-gray. The tegulae are brown.
The gaster (the portion of the abdomen behind the thorax–abdomen connection) is
dark brown with a white, powdery covering; with narrow yellow bands at the
posterior margins of the tergite, the sixth segment is entirely yellow. It is
similar in appearance to the established European hornet, Vespa crabro.
The Asian giant hornetIt can be found in Primorsky Krai, Korea, China, Taiwan
(where it is called; "tiger head bee"), Indochina, Nepal, India, and Sri
Lanka, but is most common in mountainous areas of Japan.
The sting of the Asian giant hornet is about 6 mm (¼ in) in length, and
injects an especially potent venom that contains, like many bee and wasp venoms,
a cytolytic peptide (specifically, a mastoparan) that can damage tissue by
stimulating phospholipase action, in addition to its own intrinsic
phospholipase. Masato Ono, an entomologist at Tamagawa University near Tokyo,
described the sensation as feeling "like a hot nail being driven into my
An allergic human stung by the giant hornet may die from an allergic reaction to
the venom, but the venom contains a neurotoxin called mandaratoxin which can
be lethal even to people who are not allergic if the dose is sufficient. Between
20 and 40 people die each year in Japan after being stung by giant hornets.
A few interesting notes on Vespa mandarinia's venom and stinger:
The venom contains at least eight distinct chemicals, some of which damage
tissue, some of which cause pain, and at least one which has an odor that
attracts more hornets to the victim.
The venom contains 5% acetylcholine, a greater concentration than is present
in bee or other wasp venoms. Acetylcholine stimulates the pain nerve fibers,
intensifying the pain of the sting.
Vespa mandarinia uses its large crushing mandibles, rather than its sting, to
The venom of the Asian giant hornet is more toxic than that of most other bees
or wasps, giving this species one of the greatest lethal capacities per
The enzyme in the venom is so strong that it can dissolve human tissue. On
some occasions, the sting may be compared to the effects of a spider bite.
Like all hornets, V. mandarinia has a barbless stinger, allowing it to sting
The Asian giant hornet is a relentless hunter that preys on other large insects
such as bees, other hornet species, and mantises.
An Asian giant hornet feeding on a mantis.The hornets often attack honey bee
hives with the goal of obtaining the honey bee larvae. A single scout, sometimes
two or three, will cautiously approach the nest, giving off pheromones which
will lead the other hornets to the hive's location.
The hornets can devastate a colony of honey bees: a single hornet can kill as
many as 40 honey bees per minute thanks to their large mandibles which can
quickly strike and decapitate a bee. It takes only a few of these hornets a few
hours to exterminate the population of a 30,000-member hive, leaving a trail of
severed insect heads and limbs. The European honey bees Apis mellifera have
small stings which do little damage to hornets that are three times their size
and twenty times their weight. The honey bees make futile solo attacks without
mounting a collective defense, and are easily killed individually by the
hornets. Once a hive is emptied of all defending bees, the hornets feed on the
honey and carry the larvae back to feed to their own larvae. The hornets can fly
up to 60 miles (95 km) in a single day, at speeds up to 25 mph or 40 km/h.
Adult hornets cannot digest solid protein, so the hornets do not eat their prey,
but chew them into a paste and feed them to their larvae. The larvae produce a
clear liquid, vespa amino acid mixture, which the adults consume; larvae of
social Vespidae produce these secretions, the exact amino acid composition
varying considerably among species. The passing of nutrition to adult wasps
by larvae is widespread in these wasps, and not restricted to the genus Vespa.
Native honey bees
Japanese honey bees (Apis cerana japonica) defensively "balling" in which two
hornets (Vespa simillima xanthoptera) are engulfed and heated.Although a handful
of Asian giant hornets can easily defeat the defenses of many individual honey
bees, whose small stings cannot inflict much damage against such a large
predator, the Japanese honey bee (Apis cerana japonica) possesses a collective
defense against them.
When a hornet scout locates and approaches a Japanese honey bee hive it will
emit specific pheromonal hunting signals. When the honey bees detect these
pheromones, a hundred or so will gather near the entrance of the nest and set up
a trap, keeping it open apparently to draw the hornet further into the hive or
allow it to enter on its own. As the hornet enters the nest, a large mob of
about five hundred honey bees surrounds it, completely covering it and
preventing it from moving, and begin quickly vibrating their flight muscles.
This has the effect of raising the temperature of the honey bee mass to 47 °C
(117 °F). The honey bees can barely tolerate this temperature, but the hornet
cannot survive more than 46 °C (115 °F), so it dies. Often several bees perish
along with the intruder, but the death of the hornet scout prevents it from
summoning reinforcements which would wipe out the colony.
Beekeepers in Japan attempted to introduce the European honeybee in order to
increase productivity, however, European honeybees have no defence against the
hornet and the colonies are rapidly destroyed by these formidable insects.[1
The giant asian hornet has no known predator. No insect, in the hornet's area,
has the capacity to be a threat to the hornet. The only danger that the hornet
faces comes from humans. Some villages in Japan, value these creatures as part
of a human diet. They are eaten either as hornet sashimi or deep fried. Despite
the risks associated with the capture of hornets, they are said to be delicious
and a good source of protein. Besides the humans that consume the hornets,
deforestation does not play a role in harming the hornets.
 Hornet supplement manufacturers
Recently, several companies in Asia and Europe have begun to manufacture dietary
supplements and energy drinks which contain synthetic versions of secretions of
the larvae of Vespa mandarinia, which the adult hornets usually consume. The
manufacturers of these products make claims that consuming the larval hornet
secretions (marketed as "hornet juice") will enhance human endurance because of
the effect it has on adult hornets' performance. Because these products are
marketed as dietary supplement rather than pharmaceuticals, they do not have to
support their claims. Some studies, however, have suggested that the vespa
amino acid mixture itself may influence animal performance in minor ways.
One such company, VAAM, manufactures several such hornet-themed supplements.
According to the product's nutritional information, these all consist mostly of
common amino acids and flavorings.