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