A few nights ago, I had a dream: I was in a multi-level, open floor plan, lodge-style house with a large open space in the middle – think “dance floor” with second level viewing all around it. There were rich, well-dressed, Yakuza-esque Japanese men on this viewing level, leaning over the rail and watching intently. I was standing on the dance floor with a few others, and then someone released a wasp the size of a cat which started flying around the room stinging people to death. We were all scrambling around, pushing, and climbing over one another trying not to be next on its list.
I remembered having seen a youtube video about giant Japanese hornets invading and destroying honey bee colonies, so I’m sure this old memory had somehow been spun into this nightmare. I tucked both away into my long term memory and moved on… until this morning, when I stumbled across this gem on The Oatmeal:
I decided to do what is always inadvisable in regard to terrifying insects. I googled the Giant Japanese Hornet.
The Giant Japanese Hornet is the most dangerous animal in Japan – more than poisonous snakes – more than bears. Why? This hornet accounts for more deaths every year than any other animal in the country – approximately 40 annually. It is extremely aggressive, has a potent neurotoxic venom, and a 1/4 inch long stinger. As if that isn’t enough, it often attacks in groups. Thirty of these little demons can wipe out an entire honey bee hive in three hours. Need more evidence of their inherent evil? They then dismember the bees and only take the choicest cuts of bee meat, such as the flight muscles, back to feed their evil young. The evil young, in turn, produce an amino acid rich fluid that the adult hornets drink, which allows them to perform immense feats of insect athleticism like flying 62 miles a day and reaching speeds of up to 25 mph (outrun that, silly human).
You might be wondering, “If they’re that dangerous, why not eradicate them?” Well apparently, they also eat lots of crop pests, so until MonSATANto spreads to Japan, these winged hell-beasts will endure. Also, the rural Japanese like to fry and eat these guys. I mean, look at that thing… seriously, look at it. There’s not enough ketchup in the world.
You might also be wondering, “If 30 of these can wipe out an entire honey bee hive in 3 hours, how are there any honey bees left in Japan?” Well, my friend, get comfortable, because that’s an even more interesting story.
Japanese honey bees don’t naturally produce as much honey as European or American bees (to the disgrace of the proud Japanese bee keepers), so they began to import honey bees to increase production. The imported bees had no fucking idea what they were in for. Apparently, only these imported hives get destroyed by the giant hornets, as the less productive, but more defensively strategic native Japanese honey bees have a plan… oh yes, a hell of a plan, actually. This next part sounds like science fiction, but I assure you, it is science fact.
When the giant hornet approaches a Japanese honey bee hive, the bees rush out in a cloud-like swarm and form a tight cluster around the opposing hornet. They gather in tightly and beat their wings generating increasing heat at the center of the cluster. The hornet can only survive temperatures of up to about 115 degrees Fahrenheit, while the bees can survive temperatures of slightly above 120 degrees. The bees continue this body heat crowding attack until the temperature at the center of the cluster rises enough that the hornet drops dead, at which point the bees, still within their survivable limits, dissipate and return to work (your honor is restored, brave bees, and a single tear of pride rolls down the stoic face of the bee keeper). I wouldn’t be surprised if they each then bow to the fallen hornet.
After reading all of this and feeling thoroughly and simultaneously impressed and terrified, I took the next logical step in my self-destructive google-fu – I looked to see if there were any larger demons out there.
Enter the Tarantula Hawk.
This particular brand of horror is non-venomous to humans and lives a non-aggressive, solitary life in which it jacks full grown tarantulas with its hook covered feet and lays its eggs inside their bodies. Hmm.
It gets worse. The wasp will keep the spider paralyzed by stinging it, and will feed on it, but will avoid its vital organs, thus prolonging its life. This lasts for weeks, during which time the wasp larva grows inside the spider’s body, eventually hatching and emerging.
The Tarantula Hawk has a 1/3 inch stinger (bigger than the Japanese hornet) and boasts the second most painful sting of any insect in the world, according to this psychopathic entomologist:
This vegan Chuck Norris is actually Justin O. Schmidt, an entomologist who has become famous for the unimaginably masochistic act of allowing almost every stinging insect to do its death dance on him, and then rating the resulting pain on a numerical scale. For Science! Schmidt stated that the sting of the Tarantula Hawk was second only to the infamous Bullet Ant. So, even though they aren’t technically poisonous, these nightmares will grab onto you with hook-like feet, or get tangled up in your hair, and then repeatedly sting you with a thumb tack sized stinger which induces the second most painful sting on Earth… and then, if you’re really lucky, they won’t lay their eggs inside your body.
Well, thank God all these terrible, terrible creatures are located in Japan and… hey, where are the Tarantula Hawks located? OH! Oh. That’s right. They’re right here in the United States. Well then. There’s only one thing left to do.
I like the tarantula hawk wasps. Sometimes they visit our yard and, like woodpeckers and raccoons, enhance the outdoor experience.
They are a beautiful gunmetal blue in life. The orange wings sparkle like Twilight vampires in the sun. Gorgeous animals, and harmless unless you’re a big ass spider.
Those Giant Asian Hornets, now…that’s a different story!