ASIAN GIANT HORNET
SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION: Animalia | Arthropoda | Insecta | Hymenoptera | Vespidae | Vespa | Vespa mandarinia
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Their name isn’t a lie. Asian Giant Hornets are positively huge. These insects measure almost two inches long and have a stinger that’s almost a quarter of an inch long. That, along with a highly toxic venom, gives them some serious stinging power. In fact, when people get stung by multiple giant hornets, there’s a good chance they’ll die. One Japanese entomologist who’s been stung by one of these hornets said it was like having “a hot nail being driven into my leg.”
Most humans, however, don’t really need to worry about Asian Giant Hornets. These insects don’t have much interest in people and their hives are usually located in forests. Instead, the only people that face these hornets on a regular basis are beekeepers, who must come up with a variety of ways to save their hives from these deadly predators.
It’s all because Asian Giant Hornets are voracious insect predators, and beehives offer an especially inviting target since there are so many larval insects available in one place. In fact, a small group of giant hornets can slaughter a honeybee colony containing tens of thousands of insects in just a few hours.
Their goal? These bloodthirsty killers want the colony’s larvae. All those adult honeybees? They're simply in the way, and the Asian Giant Hornets won’t stop the massacre until they get to the larvae they want. After such a raid by the massive hornets, there will literally be a heap of honeybee corpses under the hive and almost none of the adult bees will remain alive.
The way the Asian Giant Hornets actually consume the larval honeybees is a little crazy, though. For most animals, if you kill something, you eat it and that refuels your body. For Asian Giant Hornets, it’s a bit more complicated.
After reaching their prey, they chew up the baby bees, making a gooey paste that they take back to their hive and feed to their own larvae. The adult hornet, however, doesn’t absorb any of the paste – it gives every gooey bit to the larvae. From there, the hornet baby digests the paste to power its own growth.
What does the adult eat? Let’s just say that for Asian Giant Hornets, getting lunch is as easy as taking candy from babies! After the adult feeds the colony’s larvae, it’s quickly payback time. As a hornet larvae digests the mashed-potato version of the honeybees, it starts to secrete a high-energy saliva, and that saliva is just what the adult hornet was waiting for! The adult laps up this baby drool, which contains all the nutrients a full-grown Asian Giant Hornet needs to survive! Like we said, it’s like taking candy from a baby!