The Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest hornet at 2 inches long. Its yellow-orange head, teardrop-shaped eyes, massive mandibles, and orange/black stripes are distinctive. The Asian giant hornet is found in the highlands of China, Indochina, Japan, Korea, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan. They live in temperate and tropical woodlands with plenty of food and good nesting spots. Ready to learn more? Keep reading to discover 10 incredible Asian Giant Hornet Facts!
1. Asian Giant Hornets Have Five Eyes
Two enormous “complex eyes” sit on either side of its massive cranium, and two even bigger “ocelli eyes” sit atop its head. It’s important to note that bees aren’t the only insects with five eyes—or, more specifically, three ocelli on top of the head—as hornets, grasshoppers, dragonflies, and wasps also possess this trait.
2. They Thrive in Hot Humid Conditions
The best conditions for sustaining populations of Asian giant hornets include a warm summer, a mild winter, and plenty of precipitation throughout the year. Since they can’t stand temperatures above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, places like that are ideal for their habitats.
Honeybees in the West are in danger from the Asian giant hornet, which lives in the forests of Asia. To ensure the survival of their young and the production of new queens, hornet colonies launched devastating attacks on beehives in late summer and early fall.
3. Have Been Given the Nickname “Murder Hornets”
Some people have even died from being stung by Asian giant hornets because of how large they are and how much poison they inject. Mandibles are multipurpose and can be utilized for biting as well. However, this kind of insect rarely pays attention to humans unless their nest is being tampered with.
The Asian large hornet has become well-known because of its web moniker, the “murder hornet.” Despite the severe nature of their stings, less than 40 individuals each year in Asia are killed by hornets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 89 people in the United States were killed by native hornets, wasps, or bees in 2017.
4. There Are Measures in Place to Avoid Spread
By analyzing the range of a closely related species, the Vespa velutina, scientists predicted that Asian giant hornets, if not contained, may spread. They could reach southern Oregon, Washington, and even further north through British Columbia. Considering that hornets may cover up to 68 miles in a year, even in the worst-case scenario, they may have spread over the western regions of Oregon and Washington in 20 years or less. Just by the laws of nature, we have no idea where the hornet will land. Human activity contributes to the global spread of invasive species.
5. They Feed Bees and Their Larvae to Their Queen
Asian giant hornets prey on bees and mantises, which are both medium- to large-sized insects. If a large Asian hornet comes upon a honeybee colony, it will produce pheromones that will cause other hornets to attack.
Since they are skilled fighters, one Asian giant hornet can take out as many as forty honeybees in one minute using only its enormous jaw. Adult honeybees and their young will be used to feed the queen and her larvae.
6. Asian Giant Hornet Queens Build Their Own Hive
Unlike queen bees, the queen of an Asian giant hornet hive builds the nest all on her own. The nest is built in the spring, and the queen lays an egg in each cell a week later. In just 14 days, the Asian giant hornet goes through all five developmental stages and becomes an adult. By summer’s end, the colony will be home to some 700 laborers, most of whom are females.
7. Asian Giant Hornets Are the Biggest Hornets
The Asian giant hornet is two inches long and is the largest hornet on the planet. It has a massive, bright yellow/orange head, long teardrop eyes, massive mandibles, and contrasting orange and black stripes. Two other large wasp species, the European hornet, and the native cicada killer wasp, can easily be confused for the Asian giant hornet.
8. Asian Giant Hornets Outside of Asia Are An Issue
Non-native invasive species damage ecosystems and are the second-leading cause of species extinction after habitat loss. A 2005 study estimated that annual losses from invasive species throughout the United States were close to $120 billion. Recently, the Asian giant hornet Vespa mandarinia was discovered in the western regions of Canada, British Columbia, and Washington, United States. Vespa mandarinia is a dangerous invader because it can kill honeybees and cause illness in humans.
9. Asian Hornets Pose an Issue to Our Environment
Hornets are primarily prevalent in Asia but can be spotted as far east as Russia and south as the tropics. However, in 2019 and 2020, there were accounts of “murder hornets” appearing in the Pacific Northwest, sparking concerns that they might decimate local bee populations due to their penchant for using their enormous mandibles to decapitate large numbers of honeybees.
To feed their young, hornets will transport the victim’s thorax. Just a few of these hornets can wipe out an entire honeybee colony in a short amount of time (killing up to 40 bees per minute). If the Asian giant hornet species were to invade North America, it could threaten the entire commercial honeybee industry.
10. Only Female Giant Asian Hornets Sting People
Hornets are a type of wasp. Female wasps of all species are armed with venom for defense, but they only use it on humans. Some kinds of wasps are gregarious insects that form colonies, which the females will defend with stings if the colony is endangered. Many other animal species are solitary and rarely use their stingers for self-defense. Female hornets are the only ones who sting and only do so when they feel threatened. When threatened, male hornets will attack. And unlike bees, female hornets might sting multiple times.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/kojihirano
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