The Asian giant hornet (Vespa Mandarinia), the world’s largest hornet, is a native of temperate and tropical Eastern Asia.

Its body length is between 27 mm (1.1 inches) and 45 mm (1.8 inches), with a wingspan of about 76 mm (3 inches).

Queens may reach a length of 55 mm (2.2 inches).

The Asian giant hornet has even starred in its own award winning National Geographic feature. More

Asian Giant Hornet – Anatomy The head of the hornet is orange and quite wide in comparison to other hornet species. The compound eyes and ocelli are dark brown, and the antennae are dark brown with orange scapes. The clypeus (the shield-like plate on the front of the head) is orange and coarsely punctured; the posterior side of the clypeus has narrow, rounded lobes. The mandible is large and orange with a black tooth (inner biting surface).

To learn why this hornet is responsible for a miracle drink that increases athletic performance click here

The thorax and propodeum (the segment which forms the posterior part of the thorax) of the Asian giant hornet has a distinctive golden tint and a large scutellum (a shield-like scale on the thorax) that has a deeply-impressed medial line; the postscutellum (the plate behind the scutellum) bulges and overhangs the propodeum. The hornet’s forelegs are orange with dark brown tarsi (the distal – furthest down – part of the leg); the midlegs and hindlegs are dark brown. Wings are a dark brownish-gray. The tegulae are brown.

The gaster (the portion of the abdomen behind the thorax-abdomen connection) is dark brown with a white, powdery covering; with narrow yellow bands at the posterior margins of the tergite, the sixth segment is entirely yellow.

Asian Giant Hornet – Predation The Asian giant hornet is a relentless hunter that preys on other large insects such as bees, other hornet species, and praying mantises.

The hornets often attack honeybee hives with the goal of obtaining the honeybee larvae. The hornets can devastate a colony of honeybees: a single hornet can kill as many as 40 honeybees per minute; it takes only a few of these hornets a few hours to exterminate the population of a 30,000-member honeybee hive, leaving a trail of severed insect heads and limbs. Once a hive is emptied of all defending bees, the hornets carry the honeybee larvae back to feed to their own larvae.

Rather than consume their kills directly, the hornets chew them into a paste and feed them to their larvae (adult hornets being unable to digest solid protein). The hornet larvae, in return, produce a clear liquid, a powerful energy-boosting cocktail in their saliva, which the adults consume.

It’s called vespa amino acid mixture. Regular doses of this “Hornet Juice” from the larvae give giant hornets their incredible stamina and energy when pursuing prey, they can travel a range of 60 miles (96 kilometers) at speeds reaching 25 miles per hour.

Asian Giant Hornet – Drink It Up, Run Fast The incredible effects of hornet juicehave not gone unnoticed in Japan: The country’s latest sports drink is based on this “hornet power.” It contains a synthetic form of components in the hornet larval saliva, which is touted as performance-boosting. Japanese gold medalist and world-record marathon runner Naoko Takahashi declared that hornet juice gave her an edge in the Olympic Games held in Sydney, Australia. To learn more about this sports drink click here.

Asian Giant Hornet – TV Star 

The Asian giant hornet was also the star of the award winning National Geographic documentary “Hornets From Hell”.

Asian Giant Hornet – Geographic Distribution The Vespa Mandarinia can be found in most of Asia but mostly in the mountains of Japan: southeastern regions of Asian Russia (Primorskii Krai), Korea, China, Japan, Indochina, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka.

Asian Giant Hornet – Sting The stinger of the Asian giant hornet is about a quarter-inch (6 mm) in length, and injects an especially potent venom that contains an enzyme so strong that it can dissolve human tissue. Masato Ono, an entomologist at Tamagawa University near Tokyo, described the sensation as feeling “like a hot nail through my leg.”

If a person is stung by the giant hornet and does not receive prompt medical treatment, he or she may die from a reaction to the venom. About 40 people die each year after being stung by giant hornets, mainly as a result of an allergic reaction to the venom.

A couple of interesting notes on the Vespa Mandarinia’s venom and stinger:

  • The venom contains 5% acetylcholine, which stimulates the pain nerve fibres more than bee or other wasp venoms, so that it is a bit more painful.
  • The venom is optimized to kill bees which are the Vespa Mandarinia’s natural prey. This means that while the venom may be a bit more painful to vertebrates, it is actually less toxic.
  • Like all hornets, Vespa Mandarinia can sting repeatedly, and do so when they prey on bees and other insects.
  • According to a report, one victim could not be recognized because said victim’s face was dissolved beyond recognition due to numerous stings to that area.

Asian Giant Hornet vs Native Honeybees Although a handful of Asian giant hornets can easily defeat the defenses of honeybees, whose correspondingly small sting cannot inflict much damage against such a large predator as the giant hornet, the Japanese honeybee (Apis cerana japonica) has evolved an ingenious method of defending against the much larger predator.

When a hornet scout locates a Japanese honeybee hive and approaches the nest, the scout will emit specific pheromonal hunting signals. When the honeybees detect these pheromones, a hundred or so honeybees will gather near the entrance of the nest, apparently to draw the hornet further into the hive. As the hornet enters the nest, a large mob of about five hundred honeybees surround the hornet, completely covering it and preventing it from moving, and begin quickly vibrating their flight muscles. This has the effect of raising the temperature of the honeybee mass to 47 degree Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit). Though the honeybees can tolerate such a temperature, it is fatal to the intruder, which can handle a maximum temperature of about 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit), and is effectively baked to death by the large mass of vibrating bees.

Asian Giant Hornet and the Japanese Diet In Japan’s mountain villages, the hornets are valued as part of the basic diet. They are eaten deep fried or as a kind of hornet sashimi.
Asian Giant Hornet – Scientific Classification Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Vespidae
Genus: Vespa
Species: V. mandarinia
Binomial name: Vespa mandarinia, Smith, 1852
Frederick Smith (1805 – 1879) was a British entomologist.

Smith worked in the zoology department of the British Museum from 1849, specialising in the Hymenoptera. In 1875 he was promoted to Assistant Keeper of Zoology. His publications included Catalogue of Hymenopterous Insects (7 parts, 1853-1859) and parts 5 (1851) and 6 (1852) of the Nomenclature of Coleopterous Insects. Smith was president of the Entomological Society of London, 1862-3.