Asian Giant Hornet or Japanese Wasp: Meet the Real Killer Bee.
It is the world’s largest hornet at approximately two inches long, this specie is native to Eastern Asia. They are a ferocious wasp which using minimal numbers can destroy an entire honey bee hive in a matter of hours and plunder its bounty.
a.k.a. Giant Sparrow Bee. They have an abnormally large head and formidable mandibles, giving them an especially fearsome appearance.
Here is The Incredible Hulk of a Killer Bee. Don’t make them angry. -You won’t like them when they’re angry! Known in Japan also as the ‘giant sparrow bee,’ these giant wasps seek other large insects, mantises and other hornet species to prey upon.
Giant Asian Hornet, the Japanese Giant Wasp
They also seek colonies and hives of honey bees. Upon a lone scout or two having found a thriving hive, they emit a pheromone trail and wait for reinforcements of their kind to arrive. Carnage is soon to follow. Usually, only a dozen or so conspecifics are all that is required to mount an effective assault, then they attack! It is not even a fair fight, it is more of a massacre for 20 or 30 Asian Giant Hornets can obliterate a colony of 30,000+ honeybees within hours! Each Giant Wasp is capable of killing dozens of honeybees per minute. Their prize; the honey bee larvae and pupae which they intend to carry away to feed to their own young.
Lacking any effective defense, the honeybee colony is doomed, fighting to the very last bee. Snipping honeybees in half with their giant mandibles, chopping off heads and crushing them with impunity are all part of the Asian Wasp's battle strategy. Ordinary honeybees lack any organized or effective defense and the hive is soon lost to the invaders. The surrounding area will be littered with the dead and the dying honeybees by the thousands. The conquering Asian Giant Wasps will drink the honey from the now emptied honeybee hive and carry the helpless larvae back to their own nest to feed to their young. These wasps cannot directly digest the protein they have secured but instead feed the chewed up and regurgitated larvae pulp to their young, which in turn produce a clear liquid that the adults consume. This behavior is not uncommon among wasp species.
Asian Giant Wasps Attack a Honeybee Colony
Their sting is especially painful to humans. Their venom contains chemicals that is necrotic to flesh, stimulate nerve cells that conduct pain signals and like all true wasps, their stinger is barb-less. This means that they can sting repeatedly. Some people even have allergic reactions to the stings of these bees if stung enough times. About 40 people die every year in Japan due to Asian Wasp stings.
Japanese Honeybees Fight Back, and Win!
The Japanese Honeybee however has developed a defensive strategy. When the lone Asian Hornet scout approaches their hive, the Japanese Honeybees will lure the scout into the hive. Allowing it to enter, the honeybees that have gathered by the hundreds around the opening to the hive will swarm and engulf the scout, completely covering the bee and pinning it down. They prevent the Asian Wasp from escaping or signaling for help. They maintain this live blanket around the lone scout as it struggles to free itself, their collective body mass temperature rising to dangerous levels. This is their strategy. They can kill the intruder by heat.
Japanese honeybees can withstand slightly higher bodily temperatures than the Asian Hornet for short durations, but only by a matter of only a degree or two. The Asian Giant Wasp is doomed.
Swarming an Asian Wasp Scout, Death is Assured as the Collective Heat Increases
Image via Wikipedia
At around 115 degree Fahrenheit, the Asian Wasp perishes from heat exhaustion. The Japanese honeybees can barely withstand temperatures just two degrees hotter. Some honeybee defenders die anyway from the battle, from being crushed in the mobbing or perhaps even by the stress of the heat that they collectively generate. The death of the lone Asian Giant Wasp has prevented its signaling for help and backup. The location and security of the hive of the Japanese Honeybee remains safe for now.
Japanese Beekeepers have in recent years tried to introduce European honeybees locally for their increased productivity. This effort has failed repeatedly. The more productive and passive European honeybees lack any collective strategies against the Asian Giant Wasp and their colonies have always been ravaged and totally destroyed by the colossal native wasps.
I suppose it would be a fool's folly to even consider using the Asian Giant Wasp as some sort of weapon against the Africanized Honeybees here in the Americas. That would be the last thing we need, -another threat to the already dwindling honeybee populations. I would vehemently oppose even the release of sterile Asian Giant Wasps for their efforts to eradicate Africanized Bee colonies. It was this kind of two dimensional thinking that introduced the Africanized bee in the first place, the so-called "Killer Bees." An effort to alter the natural world to our benefit, which in the case of Africanized bee, backfired in the worst possible way. It would be most unfortunate to have uncontrollable hives of these Godzilla-sized Killer Bees on the loose in a land whose bees are defenseless against them.