As if 2020 didn’t have enough apocryphal stories brewing, we now have the giant Asian Hornets to add to the mix. I’ve been seeing this story circulating around Facebook and other media sites and thought it was worth exploring and sharing some insight on this nasty looking insect.
Having landed on American soil for the first time ever, researchers are still guessing at how they arrived and best bets are focused on a free ride in shipping containers. Spotted in Washington state, the insect dubbed the “murder hornet” is believed to primarily be a threat to beehives. When they do go after honeybees, they decapitate them using mandible shaped like spiked shark fins, but also, the giant hornets will fly away with the headless bodies to feed their young. At two inches long, they’re the world’s largest hornet and have a sting that kills approximately 50 people a year back home in Japan.
I would have never guessed, but back in Japan they are known for being a great delicacy. In fact, some of Japan’s younger generations are said to be huge fans of the Asian Hoinets . I’m told the grubs are often preserved in jars, pan-fried or steamed with rice to make a savory dish called “hebo-gohan”, while the larger adults are fried on skewers, stinger and all until they become light and crunchy. Over 30 restaurants in Tokyo alone have the hornet on the menu, and those that eat them say they’re left with a warm and tingly sensation. Even more impressive might be that the hornets are also an ingredient in liquor. From what I understand, live specimens are drowned in shochu, a clear distilled beverage, and while in their death throes, the insects release their venom into the liquid, which is stored until it turns a dark shade of amber, giving the concoction an extra kick. One Japanese establishment sells homemade hornet liquor for about $19 per shot, mostly to middle-aged men.
Apparently there’s also a bit thrill in hunting down and finding the nests, which extremists in Japan do each year to win an award for finding the largest or coolest shaped. Hunters first have to find a hornet, which they do by luring them out with a streamer attached to a piece of fish, and when it grabs the morsel and takes off, the hunting party goes on a steeplechase through the woods to find the nest. This has actually become a tradition at the annual Kushihara Hebo Matsuri, a cuisine celebration each November in Gifu Prefecture.
In Asia, many bees have developed a defense mechanism against the giant Asian Hornet as they swarm a scout hornet in the hive, forming a ball around the invader. From there, the bees vibrate, causing the hornet to heat up allowing carbon dioxide to build up inside the ball and eventually suffocate the scout before he can return with others. At this point no one knows whether bees in North America know how to deploy this technique since the hornet is a new threat, leaving researchers to wonder how it will play out. Perhaps we will need to send in the artificial bees like we did the artificial mosquitos during “zika virus”.
As far as the sting… YouTube personality Coyote Peterson, a wildlife educator, known for intentionally allowing himself to be bitten and stung by the world’s craziest bugs and insects, recently took on the challenge. You can watch the short video HERE. Peterson now ranks the sting as more painful than that which the bull ant delivered and formerly claimed was the most painful insect bite ever. Bottom-line, I don’t think you want to get stung by one of these bad boys.
If you should happen to be unlucky enough to encounter the beast, officials are asking the public to contact local extension offices and obviously not try to deal with them yourself. It is believed they are currently only in the Pacific Northwest, and experts it could take years for them to move across the country, that is unless somehow transported. With 2020 being what it is, many media sources are electing to run this story as yet another number being called on our Apocalyptic Bingo Card. I say it’s just one hell of a big hornet that somehow made its way over to the U.S. Be on the look out!