The Japanese huge hornet is a close relative of the Hornet of an ordinary hornet that inhabits our country. But, despite this, the difference in appearance and size between these insects is simply huge.
Comparing them, you can see that the Japanese hornet differs from its European counterpart coloring, however, this is far from its main characteristic. Dimensions - this is what this giant can "boast" about. Its name is "giant Japanese hornet" this insect is not without reason: the length of his body can exceed 4 cm, and the wingspan - 6 cm.
Below the photo shows a Japanese hornet (Vespa mandarina japonica):
And so it looks like an ordinary hornet (Vespa crabro), which is widely distributed in Russia and Europe:
Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when you see the Japanese "monster" is how dangerous it is and how painful its bite is. Indeed, the giant hornet has a very frightening appearance, which, however, accurately reflects the seriousness of the consequences from the meeting with him.
Japanese hornets can indeed be very dangerous: in the country that gave the name to these insects, more than 40 people die each year from their bites. All the people this hornet has ever stung, claim that they never experienced a more painful bite in life.
On a note
Almost any encounter with a hornet, to whatever species it belongs, is more or less dangerous. Not surprisingly, medical scientists and biologists were greatly interested in the effect of bites of these insects on the human body. It turned out that one of the strongest in nature is the poison that the giant Japanese hornet possesses: even with a single bite, it can cause a powerful allergic reaction up to anaphylactic shock. In the case of a mass attack of several hornets of this species, severe hemorrhages and necrosis of tissues can occur in a person.
When planning a trip to Japan, it is useful to always be ready for a chance encounter with giant hornets and know not only how they look, but also how to behave so that insects do not attack.
What does a Japanese huge hornet look like?
Generally speaking, giant hornets in Japan are a subspecies of a giant Asian hornet. These insects are found only on the Japanese islands, being classical endemics.
Despite its impressive size, the giant Japanese hornet is still somewhat inferior in this respect to the mainland wasps: this insect is even larger. Scoliosis is considered the largest sedge in the world.
However, the Japanese hornet is not small (especially in comparison with other species) - in the photo below it is possible to estimate its size in comparison with the human hand:
The length and wingspan of the Japanese giant hornet is its main difference from most other species of the Hornet family. Even in comparison with those of them that have a similar coloration, the Japanese giant is more striking because of the simple ratio of body dimensions to the size of flowers and branches on which it is found.
The color of the Japanese giant hornet is another characteristic trait. The insect has a black breast, a yellow head and the same color the base of the abdomen, which is delineated from the middle by transverse brown and black stripes. Such a pattern makes it easy to distinguish this huge wasp from the traditional European hornets - in the domestic species the back half of the abdomen is uniformly yellow.
Photo of Japanese hornet close-up:
And for comparison, a photo of a common hornet:
The giant hornet has two well-noticeable large eyes on the front of the head, and a little higher - three additional small subordinate eyelets, providing a large area of vision (see photo).
In general, all hornets in the world - European, Japanese, and beautiful yellow Vespa bicolor - despite some distinctive features, are equally related and belong to the family of real wasps. For this reason, the image of their life, the nature of nutrition and the features of biology are very similar.
On a note
Sometimes Japanese hornets are wrongly called oriental. In fact, the eastern hornet (Vespa orientalis) is a separate species, common, for example, but in southern Europe, in the subtropical regions of Asia, and also in North Africa, and adapted to dwelling in a dry climate. Nest these insects in the ground.
Below is a picture of the oriental hornet (Vespa orientalis):
The life of a huge wasp
As already mentioned, the Japanese huge hornet is a strict island endemic. Outside of Japan, it was found only in the south of Sakhalin. On the mainland, this species does not occur at all.
As for the way of life, the Japanese giant lives in almost all biotopes, except for the Alpine belt and large cities. Where insects live, there are almost no drafts and other disturbing factors: their nests are located on branches and tree hollows, under the roofs of rural structures, on the ledges of rocks in the forest zone, in cracks of stones and natural niches.
A huge hornet builds dwellings, which are very similar to paper nests of wasps, only larger and more voluminous. Such a structure and location of the dwellings of these insects is characteristic and practically for all other species of their relatives.
A nest in the early spring is built by a young overwintered female. She feeds the first larva herself, and the working hornets that have emerged from them begin to help the female founder to procure food and take care of the brood. After a short time - as the colony grows - the uterus ceases to engage in anything other than laying eggs.
From the moment of egg laying to the exit of the hornet from the pupa, it takes about 28-30 days.
If we talk about food addictions of this insect, it is worth noting that the Japanese giant hornet, however, like all of its close relatives - a predator. The main part of his diet consists of various insects, spiders, worms, mollusks.
Nevertheless, like other wasps, the huge hornet loves honey very much, the juice of sweet fruits, and can also fly to the smell of meat and fish. He does not refuse even the products started to spoil.
Another thing is the larvae. Their offspring horny fed exclusively meat meat of the highest quality - they give them the most tasty pieces of prey.
The photo below shows the larva of the Japanese hornet:
The whole colony of hornets develops until the period of swarming, which occurs at the end of summer or early autumn. By this time, young males and reproductive females are hatched from the eggs. After mowing and mating, males die, and females find shelter for wintering and hide in them, in order to start the life cycle again in early summer.
Thus, the entire life of hornets fits only in a small time interval - the warm season. For the winter, the nest is dying out, and only females remain from the entirety of the many thousands of families.
In the photo there is an example of such a desolate nest:
Thunderstorm of all bees
Most of all the troubles the huge hornet delivers to Japanese beekeepers. Honey bees (usually European varieties, more industrious and less aggressive) are a real delicacy for hornets. However, the prey is not only bees, but also honey produced by them, which the giant predator regrets after the destruction of the hive.
It is interesting
One giant giant hornet can kill up to thirty bees per minute, and a group of 30-40 "aggressors" destroys in a few hours a bee family of 20-25 thousand individuals.
If the hornet scout finds a residential beehive with bees, he leaves fragrant tags near him, and on his return to the nest he tells his brethren the way to the delicacy. After this, the hornets-killers are already sent to the ruin of the hive by a whole detachment.
In fairness, it should be noted that some species of bees, in turn, also have a unique mechanism for combating hornets. However, he gives a result only with a small number of attackers. If hornets are attacked in a significant amount, bees, alas, are powerless.
So, how does the bee protection mechanism work? The defense of the hive consists of several stages:
- at the very beginning, when a giant hornet tries to penetrate a beehive, several bees cling to it;
- further - they sit on the other, and so continues until the hornet grows around a huge, up to 30-35 cm in diameter, a ball of bees;
- In parallel to this process, all the defenders of the hive actively move their wings, directing the air inside the ball to the aggressor, and heating it up to 46-47 ° C, harmful to the hornet (the bees themselves can withstand heating to 50 ° C).
The result of all these efforts is the death of the attacking predator from overheating for about one hour.
Despite such a seemingly effective mechanism, the bee can not cope with a whole detachment of winged killers. That is why the Japanese huge hornet is considered the cause of serious losses of beekeeping farms in this country. The owners and workers of the apiaries are doing their utmost to destroy the nests of hornets near the places where the honey bee hives are located.
Nevertheless, the fight between beekeepers against an insect-enemy often ends with a loss: an enormous hornet, due to its size, can fly away for food up to 10 km from its nest, and the victim himself can be pursued up to 5 km. Therefore, contrary to all human efforts, the destruction of the nests of a giant predator often does not give significant results in protecting apiaries.
How poisonous is the huge hornet?
The Japanese giant hornet is one of the most poisonous among its relatives. And the point here is not only in the toxicity and specificity of the poison, but in the amount that the insect can "reward" its victim: one portion of toxins in a huge Japanese hornet is almost one and a half times that of its European counterpart.
It is worth paying attention to the fact that, for all its virulence, a huge hornet is hunted mainly with the help of jaws. Sting and poison are used only when fighting the largest and most dangerous victims, when the giant is "not sure" of its strength, or when it is defending itself.
It is interesting that a common honey bee when bitten introduces much more venom into the wound than even a hornet. At the same time, it often leaves its sting at the bite site, connected to a special reservoir with poison, the muscles of which continue to contract for a long time. The hornet never leaves its sting in the wound (the sting is not jagged, unlike the sting of the bee).
The photo below shows the sting of the bee:
And so it looks like a hornet sting:
The bite of a huge Japanese hornet is really amazingly painful. It is felt right away, as soon as the giant injected the stinger under the skin. Usually, within a few seconds after that, there is edema at the site of the bite, the strongest throbbing pain and inflammation.
After about half an hour, more distinct and serious symptoms of poisoning develop - dizziness, palpitations, a sharp increase in body temperature. That's why a stung person needs careful observation - in some cases, these allergy manifestations can almost instantly grow into a threat to life.
It is interesting
The length of the sting of the Japanese giant hornet is more than 6 mm. To introduce it under the skin of an insect, it is not necessary to sit on a person, it can do it on the fly, and repeatedly.
In extremely insect-prone people, banal, it would seem, edema is capable of passing into a severe allergic reaction with an increase in lymph nodes, nausea and Quinck's edema.
Quite often after such bites, the victims have anaphylactic shock, sometimes - with a fatal outcome. If a person is stung by several hornets at once, he can develop a huge swelling with heavy hemorrhages and necrosis of a part of the tissues in the affected parts of the body.
"The hornet bit me the first time in the early summer of 2011, when I was working in my garden. The pain was terrible, as if I had been poured a palm with molten lead. I shook the hornet from my hand and tried to suck the poison out of the wound, but it did not work. I had to go to the hospital. While I got to her, my condition greatly deteriorated. The whole hand swelled up to the elbow, I was thrown into a fever, my heart was beating. Already in the hospital I was given some quick-acting medication, and it started to get easier for me. Two days later I had already left home, and my arm stopped hurting after only 12 days. "
Ishimi Thomas, Sima
Despite all the horrors that threaten the bite of the giant Japanese hornet, on the whole it is much less aggressive and more calm than, say, an ordinary wasp or bee. The bite of this huge predator is almost always provoked by a person - when he purposely tries to reach the nest or accidentally touches an insect. In all other cases of direct threat to human giant hornets in Japan do not represent, and when you meet with them, you can easily disperse without consequences.