Natioal Geographic Channel
Creature Feature: Hornets from Hell
It's springtime in Japan and in this ethereal landscape of radiance and renewal, a queen awakens from her winter slumber. The Asian giant hornet is the largest hornet in the world and is a fearsome combination of power, aggression and homicidal prowess. The venom of this gargantuan insect can dissolve tissue and its tremendous mandibles are capable of killing up to 40 victims per minute. National Geographic joins Dr. Masato Ono in his fascinating, and sometimes dangerous, quest to unlock the key to wasp society.
6 August, 8.00am
"Hornets From Hell" Offer Real-Life Fright
for National Geographic News
October 25, 2002
A small but highly efficient killing machineâ€”a hornet two inches long and with a wingspan up to three inchesâ€”lurks in the mountains of Japan. The voracious predator has a quarter-inch stinger that pumps out a dose of venom with an enzyme so strong it can dissolve human tissue.
Bees, other hornet species, and larger insects such as praying mantises are no match for the giant hornets, which often stalk their prey in relentless armies. Just one of these hornets can kill 40 European honeybees a minute; a handful of the creatures can slaughter 30,000 European honeybees within hours, leaving a trail of severed insect heads and limbs.
People are not the Japanese giant hornet's usual prey, but those who have felt its sting describe the pain as excruciating. Masato Ono, an entomologist at Tamagawa University, near Tokyo, said it's "like a hot nail through my leg."
Someone who is stung by the hornet and doesn't receive proper treatment soon thereafter can die from the venom, which is powerful enough to disintegrate human flesh. About 40 people die each year after being stung by giant hornets, mainly as a result of an allergic reaction to the venom.