Hornets, yellow jackets, Polistes and paper and potter wasps, all of which are commonly referred to as wasps, belong to the family Vespidae in the order Hymenoptera.

 

Susumebachi2 Asian Paper Wasp/ Polistes rothneyi/(Vespidae)/(HYMENOPTERA) These long-legged paper wasps were building their nest near my home last summer.

Polistes, or paper wasps (or social wasps), are reddish-brown to dark brown in color. They build paper nests with small open honeycomb structures. Some have black, red or yellow markings on the body. Paper wasps are long-legged and the abdomen is slender and attached to the thorax by a short petiole. The nests are small and contain only a few larvae and adults in comparison with other wasps in the Vespidae family. The nests tend to be constructed under the eaves of homes or in attics although this one photographed above is on a fence. Most are paper wasps that use wood pulp to build their nests. They are attracted to unfinished wood decks, lawn furniture, or awnings; and usually build their nests there.
The most fascinating kind of wasp in Japan is the Giant Yellow Killer Hornet – the largest kind in the world.

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Click here to see this gorgeous photo.

My dad came face to face with one of the giant hornets with yellow helmet-like heads, while climbing Tanzawa mountains last summer. It was frightening he said. The hornet hovered right between his eyes, stared at him, as if deciding whether to attack or not. My dad froze and then the hornet backed off.

Killer hornets build their nests in trees and bushes. Their nests are grey or brown and usually round or oval-shaped.

Each spring on the Honshu island which is where I live, as the cold weather fades, giant hornet queens awake from six months of hibernation. Inside, they carry the eggs of those who will be the hive’s workers and soldiers. A hornet queen lays thousands of eggs that take only a week to develop into larvae. The queen also lay unfertilized eggs that will become the male hornets that are needed to fertilize a new generation of queens, which in turn hibernate until spring arrives again.
The queen feeds her young at first, but soon an army of hornet hunters is dispatched to surrounding forests in search of more food sources. The hornets are hard-working while their season lasts, preying on other insects and building the size of their hives. The largest wasp nest ever recorded measured twelve feet long with a diameter of five feet nine inches was found on farm at New Zealand in 1963.

 

Favorite food: Giant killer hornets like to feed on honeybees best. The hornet marks the nest with a type of bodily chemical substance called a pheromone. A horde of giant hornets will soon arrive to prey on the honeybee colony. One hornet can kill 40 honeybees in a minute. Adult hornets feed their young by chewing the flesh of their victims into a gooey paste that the offspring devour. The larvae are well fed, and in turn provide the adults with a powerful energy-boosting fluid in their saliva.

This is called vespa amino acid mixture, or VAAM. Regular doses of VAAM 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.

The year before last, I watched with my dad the Sydney Olympic Games and our Japanese gold medalist and world-record marathon runner Naoko Takahashi who is very small-sized said that she relied on VAAM drink to give her energy for her runs.

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.

It is said that in the mountain villages, the hornets are eaten as part of the traditional basic diet, deep fried, or even as hornet sashimi….but I haven’t seen any yet. I will photograph those if I get to see any.

Warning:

 

Some one who is stung by a hornet and doesn’t receive proper treatment can die soon from an allergic reaction to the poison which itself is powerful enough to make human flesh come apart.

Every year lots of people in Japan die from hornet stings. In the news this month one woman received 91 stings on her body and died.

Giant killer hornets like to attack dark colours, so we need to cover the head and face with a white towel, hat or hands when the hornets are nearby. If walking in the mountains, wear light-coloured clothing and cover your head.

When confronted with an aggressive hornet, don’t run or flap hands or act nervously or move quickly. They can fly faster than we can run since they can fly at high speed for up to 500 meters.

We can spray small nests with a pesticide spray with a range of 10 meters. Spray at night because the bees will have returned to the nest. Bees have poor eyesight at night and can’t chase us.

We can leave the old nest up as other bees will not want to build in the same territory.

 

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWhen the yellow hornet (susumebachi) attacks something, its body temperatures rises up to 50 degrees Celcius, which is why the sting is said to feel very hot. Last week, a yellow hornet got into my sister’s room and we caught it with a net.

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***A Must-read National Geographic article Hornets from Hell

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