Wild Fact #610 – Don’t Mess with the Devil – Asian Giant Hornet

Wild Fact #610 – Don’t Mess with the Devil – Asian Giant Hornet


Photo by Gary Alpert

Earlier this weekend, I chose a great animal to write about for today’s Wild Fact.  Unfortunately, I have completely forgotten what the animal was now that it is time to write the fact.  I suppose this is why you should jot down ideas as they come to you.  Anyway, I did manage to think of another impressive animal from the insect world.  I know, I know…ewww, insects!  Trust me, the Asian Giant Hornet is a pretty cool bug, unless of course you don’t like hornets.

As you may have guessed by the name, the Asian Giant Hornet is actually the largest hornet species in the world.  I am curious to see if you can guess where you find these massive hornets.  Wow!  You are good.  How did you know they can be found throughout Eastern Asia?  If you are from Japan then you may know them as Giant Sparrow Bees.  Okay, so just how big are these guys?  Well it is not uncommon to find a 5 cm (2″) long hornet with a wing span of about 7.6 cm (3″).  Now before we go any further, I want you to use your index finger and thumb to measure out 2 inches.  Now picture that as a hornet!

Photo by Hornetboy1970

Okay, so they are big hornets, do we need to worry about them?  Before I answer this question, I want to describe some of their characteristics a bit more.  These large hornets use their size to bully other insects, particularly European Honeybees.  In fact, they are such efficient predators that just one Giant Hornet can kill about 40 European Honeybees per minute! Imagine the carnage they would bring if you had numerous Giant Hornets.  Obviously, this is a problem for bee farmers.  Luckily, these giant beasts do not particularly like the taste of humans.

Unfortunately, the Asian Giant Hornet will sting humans if need be.  People that have been stung describe the pain as excruciating.  This makes sense considering their stingers are about 1/4 inch long and can expel a venom so powerful that it can dissolve human flesh.  As a result, if you don’t seek medical attention after being stung then you could very well end up on your death bed.  In fact, 40 people every year fall at the stingers of the Asian Giant Hornet.  My advice is to be careful while playing around in the mountains of Japan.  After all, National Geographic titled their video series about this giant insect,  “Hornets from Hell” for a reason.  Don’t go messing with the devil, especially when they have a stinger!

Below is a short clip from the above mentioned documentary.  The Giant Hornet gets outsmarted in this video but it is such an amazing documentary that I had to share it.  The twist at the end of the video is impressive! Enjoy the video and the rest of your day!


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    Emma Springfield March 07, 2011

    I guess he not only looks vicious, he is vicious. I am glad I’m not in Asia. I know one of these things would be watching for me.

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    Dianne Halye June 19, 2011

    I found and photographed one of these I live in Pa. Is this not normal? Thought they were in Asia?

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      Nathan June 20, 2011

      Hi Dianne,

      That is very interesting that you found an Asian Giant Hornet in the USA. This is definitely not normal. I would encourage you to Google the Eastern Cicada Killer since these wasps look similar to the Asian Giant Hornet and can grow up to 2 inches long.

      Unlike the Asian Giant Hornet, the Cicada Killer is not as aggressive and typically won’t bother humans (unless you grab them or step on them). Even if they do sting you, it is apparently nothing more than a pinprick.

      Another possible candidate is the European Hornet which also reaches incredible sizes and is found worldwide. They are also fairly harmless. They will be aggressive when defending their nest but that is it.

      If the insect you found really is an Asian Giant Hornet then it is possible that it came across seas on a cargo ship or something similar but my first instinct would be that it is either a Cicada Killer or European Hornet.

      Thanks for reading Wild Facts and sharing your information.

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        CassieO. August 05, 2011

        @Nathan, Well I didn’t expect last years invasion of stink bugs but this year is this Asian Giant Hornet. It showed up here in southern Maryland in my garden about May. I have got a call in to our local college for them to study. However, after watching them go after birds and other insects including others of its kind I am getting a stash of eppee pens and watching out. After thinking about it, I thought Hmm maybe this is why our native honey bees are disappearing because only the Japanese Honey bees have a defense against these creatures.

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        matt march June 11, 2014

        they’ve been coming to my house in Cross Fork pa. for four yrs. now, A logger told me he’s found several nests with larva I kill at least one a day on my porch , an they eat out of the hummingbird feeders

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      Brian B. July 18, 2011

      @Dianne Halye, Thats not good if its in PA, i happen to live in the state.

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        Patrick July 20, 2011

        @Brian B., most likely what Dianne saw is NOT the Asian Giant hornet in PA. They would most likely not survive our winters (Mechanicsburg Resident here).

        I was out walking with my family the other day and came across a giant hornet… being interested (I’ve seen the documentary about the asians and was concerned) and found that the European IS actually found all along the east coast.

        I took a picture with my cell phone and compared it to the pictures here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_hornet… and it was most deffinately a European Hornet. (the picture under the description section was exact… )

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          Nathan July 20, 2011

          I tend to agree with you Patrick. I doubt it was the Asian Giant hornet in PA, but crazier things have happened.

          The European Hornet is quite impressive though (and large). Pretty cool that you managed to see a live one …and get a picture of it.

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    don won July 28, 2011

    I have seen European hornets, and quite large in southern Illinois. They can be a menace. I notice there nests are hard to find. But they will nest in between vinyl siding spaces, like the corner pieces and anywhere there is an opening. I started spraying early this year, I have been using termite and ant spray. I mix it in a 2 gallon spray container then I power spray the corners of the siding and anywhere I see where they might enter. I also use Drion powder, which I spray in cracks and crevices. It has worked pretty good so far, but I have noticed a couple of European Hornets flying around my house, so I am hoping that’s all there doing. I’ll find out when I start making any noises, they don’t like to be disturbed. They don’t produce honey so the best way to get rid of them is sealing as many cracks or crevices as you can around the house, and if you do get a nest and you can figure out where it is, seal them in, if they can’t get out they will starve, because they like to eat meat such as dragonflies, moths and butterflies. And if you can avoid it, try not to disturb there nests, they will get pissed, and try not to use wasp spray, they hate that to. But, if you can spot there nest then by all means spray it, but wait till dark and use a flash light.

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    Tracy Loger August 25, 2011

    So today I heard a horrible buzzing/chirping noise, LOUD, and my kids were screaming something fell out of the tree, I walked over and saw this huge wasp-like insect with yellow stripes on it. It was easily 2-3 inches long. It was upside down and managed to get back on its feet and was on top of a moth/butterfly that also was a good size. It then flew off carrying the butterfly. I looked up picks because I assumed with the size stinger it had it was a hornet of some sort. I honestly dont remember if it had a yellow head or not, but I am telling you it was loud, big and UGLY! It definately had bright yellow stripes though. I live in Michigan and have never seen anything of the sort. Thanks for the info on the European hornet, it could have been that because they do look similar

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    Sylvia July 18, 2012

    I live in Kansas. We have had a very mild Winter as in most states. Is it possible that the Asian Hornet has come to the US and survived because we had basically no Winter this year? I am sure I have been seeing these bugs on my property. Actually last year I tried to snap a photograph because at first I thought it was a Humming Bird. I got a photo graph of a blurred giant insect hanging around my butterfly bush.What ever it was it can flap its wings like a humming bird. I killed some type of giant hornet two nights ago as it was having a stand off with my Great Dane. I have looked at pictures of the European Hornet and yes they look similar but is it quite possible they are finally here?

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    mary ann July 30, 2012

    I just spotted one of these HUGE creepy bees just a few minutes ago outside by our blue lime grass and it looked like the body was about the size of a dragon fly! Has anyone else in MI ever seen one of these???????

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    Mike July 31, 2012

    An old thread but relevant to me. I got bit by one of these a couple of days ago. I live in Korea and we were leaving the beach. I was carrying my 9mo boy back to the car and this thing, with no provocation and with nothing but ill intent, landed on my arm and stung the living hell out of me. I almost dropped the boy trying to sling this monster off my arm. I described it to my friends as being injected with fire and this was confirmed to be a common description when I looked it up. It hurt for a day, itched for another, and is now disappearing entirely. Not a pleasant bug at all.

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    Ryan August 24, 2012

    Do not listen to Don Won and spray the nest at night. Your best bet is contacting a pest exterminator considering European Hornets as well as many others are avid night time foragers who are attracted to light, so simply put: spraying a nest at night with a flash light could easily get you hospitalized if not killed by them especially considering there nest can number from 300-1000 workers and are very well concealed inside of nooks in trees, crawl spaces, under porches, etc. I have a rather large European Hornet’s nest in the woods behind my property and currently have DNR (i went to my local town hall considering the property is in town limits) working on eradicating the nest. Be smart do not put yourself in anymore danger then need be, hornets will defend their nest and Queen until they are completely eradicated.

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    Kevin August 24, 2012

    I live in Maryland. Looks like the European Hornet likes to buzz around the butterfly bushes looking for something to kill. Never lands on any flowers. Just hovers by them. It is quite aggressive when attacking another insect. I will second the description of the guy in Michigan with the LOUD noise. One was attacking a cicada (note, NOT a cicada killer…I have those in my front yard and they look much different…mainly the color scheme). I thought my dog was dragging a stick in his hair while we walked on the street but then he backed up and I was able to witness this thing murder the cicada like an angry ninja. it was jabbing the cicada’s belly very fast and they were bumbling along the street together. Telly creepy. I can only imagine how that would feel in my arm. So far, it’s only one or two that find their way in my back yard. Hopefully that means their nest is away from my house and they are just searching for food. The cicada killers on the other hand don’t bother me. Although it did make me poop my pants the first time I saw what I thought was a hummingbird from hell buzz my yellow Camaro. Any wasp or stinging insect that can move leaves and loose grass around by flying over it is TOO DAMN BIG!! LoL

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    Mike Ross August 26, 2012

    Hello, I got stung by a large 1 1/4” – 1 1/2″ yellow wasp, while working on a roof. I only was able to put a ‘glancing’ sting on me, as I whacked it with my hat. But, they are ‘swarmers’ and the others were getting excited …just 3 ft away..I hi-tailed it up the roof. WHAT kind of wasp is this, have not been able to find it on the web. This was found west of York, PA, but, have seen them on occasion near Baltimore. Thanks, Mike

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    Jedimom August 26, 2012

    We live in Fairfax VA and one of those is on our slider right now. It is attracted to the bright kitchen light along with moths at night. It is not a cicada killer it’s absolutely the image of the Asian hornet. It’s huge.

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    Ashlyne October 04, 2012

    I have found 2 of them outside my house in the last week. I believe they are Asian Hornets. I have looked at pictures of Giant European Hornets and the Cicada Killer and neither are what I have seen. This is the first time we have found them here. They were both about 2 – 2 1/2 inches long and ugly.

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    G October 10, 2012

    My wife just found one in the basement today. After searching many sites and pictures I have come to the occlusion that it is a European. It is quite impressive in size and would not want to be stung. I have never seen a bee this big! Guess what I’m saying is, that just find out what you are looking at before you jump to conclusions. I got worried too, but took the time to look it up. Pretty impressive!

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    Lance Mullins November 02, 2012

    That video is deadly

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    Lance Mullins November 02, 2012

    Your pRobably best to call an exterminator

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    Mark November 04, 2012

    WE definitely have these in Maryland close to the pennsylvania line..I have a lawn care business and run across them often…I also run across cicada killers and know the difference…I was at display a few weekends ago by a honey farmer..they had a live hive in an ant farm -type glass container…In the same container but unable to get to the honey bees they had a live Giant Asian Hornet and explained about how they kill their honey bees…they are common in our area and known to make a cow jump if stung because of the large stinger..no other bee or wasp can do that…

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    Mark November 04, 2012

    they also hang out at my back door light at night and one got into the house about a week ago(finally able to kill it….Definitely a Giant Asian Wasp….

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    James January 11, 2013

    Well me and a couple friends were being “attacked” by a hornet just like this one in northern idaho. Wouldn’t leave us alone and were running from it. One on my friends managed to hit it with a baseball bat and then cut the head off and kept it (although it was later lost) but haven’t been able to identify it for over two years. It looked just like the Asian giant hornet although it could have been something else. But it was huge!

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    James January 11, 2013

    Also looking at pictures, it was definitely NOT any European hornet. The one I found was bigger around than the European one looks and didnt have a red hear on it. All the yellow was very dull or dirty looking.

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    Paddy March 05, 2013

    I work law enforcement in the north Georgia mountains. I have come across these Asian Giant Hornets a number of time here in the state of Georgia. I was stung a few times on one incident and was taken to the emergency room for treatment. These Asian Hornets do not like strobe lights on emergency vehicles, it sounded like hail hitting my patrol vehicle as I watched them bounce off the glass and body of the vehicle. I was able to capture one of the insects in a container for further observation. The medical doctors identified them as “Japanese Hornets”. I have an uncle who is an entomologist, he positively identified the insect as a Asian “Giant” Hornet. I’m not a bee expert by any means, but I have always understood that most bees/wasp do not come out at night. These hornets are very active at night!

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    tara July 19, 2013

    I just started looking up hornets because one showed up at my community garden plot in PA. Its body is easily 2″, black abdomen with 3 white stripes, red fuzzy head, and red translucent wings. The next day there were 2. I planted a border of wildflowers and have been enjoying the honey bees…but noticed there were less after being gone for a week on vacation. These creatures like to sit on the leaves of the corn stalks, and in the ground below are holes I am assuming they come from? Seeing the body pulsing from ten feet away was alarming at best…I was taking my ten year old son with me, but sadly, I do not think we will be going back to the garden this year! While I can fully accept I could be wrong, the risk is too great. At least 40 people a year die from the sting!

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    dylan king June 14, 2014

    Believe me guys the Asian giant hornet is in the US, I’ve seen several around my house, just today I saw two flying around me as I was blacksmithing, trying to investigate the racket I assume but my sister killed one the other day and it was a Asian giant hornet

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    Eunice August 07, 2014

    These bad boys aren’t just in Asia anymore. Definitely have had two on porch this week in Georgia. Killed them. Can’t find nest. If I do, calling the professionals.

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