Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Giant fucking hornets

Hi kids! Today I'd like to talk to you about Vespa mandarinia, also known as the asian giant hornet.

Quoth wikipedia, "Vespa mandarinia, known colloquially as the Yak Killer Hornet, is the world's largest hornet, native to temperate and tropical Eastern Asia. Its body length is approximately 50.8 mm (2.0 in), with a wingspan of about 76 mm (3 in). Queens may reach a length of 55 mm (2.2 in). Due to its size, it is known in Japan as Suzume-Bachi or Sparrow-Bee.

It can be found in Primorsky Krai, Korea, China, Taiwan (where it is called the "tiger bee"), Indochina, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka, but is most common in mountainous areas of Japan"

That last part is fantastic, because that's where I am. I spend a lot of time in the woods, and I've had the good fortune (?) to run into a couple of these fuckers - they sound like helicopters. Oh, what's that, Wikipedia?

"The stinger of the Asian giant hornet is about 6 mm (¼ in) in length and injects an especially potent venom [...] Masato Ono, an entomologist at Tamagawa University near Tokyo, described the sensation as feeling 'like a hot nail being driven into my leg.'"

Wow, that sucks. But at least it's temporary, right?

"An allergic human stung by the giant hornet may die from an allergic reaction to the venom; but the venom contains a neurotoxin called mandaratoxin which can be lethal to people who are not allergic if the dose is sufficient. About 70 people die each year in Japan after being stung by giant hornets."

fuuuuuuuck. Here are some more awesome facts.

* The venom contains at least eight distinct chemicals, some of which damage tissue, some of which cause pain, and at least one which has an odor that attracts more hornets to the victim.
* The venom contains 5% acetylcholine, a greater concentration than is present in bee or other wasp venoms. Acetylcholine stimulates the pain nerve fibres, intensifying the pain of the sting.
* The enzyme in the venom is so strong that it can dissolve human tissue. On some occasions, the sting may be compared to the effects of a spider bite.
* Like all hornets, V. mandarinia has a barbless stinger, allowing it to sting repeatedly.

Luckily, given that the things are deadly and about the size of your thumb, they're not particularly afraid of anything. You'd probably have to be pretty stupid to be stung by one.