Vespa Mandarinia The Asian Giant Hornet
In Strange Metamorphosis Marcel is confronted by a handful of Asian giant hornets, the formidable vespa mandarinia, that proceed to wipe out an entire colony of honey bees. If he is to get the royal reward he needs to regain his human form and size, he will have to help them defend themselves.
In nature, this type of hornet is dealt with in its homeland by bees that have learnt to mob the attacker creating a beeish ball around it. They then beat their wings to increase heat to a temperature of 42°, which is enough kill the aggressor through overheating. It literally boils the enemy. The European honey, on the other, bee will attack individually and the hornet will simply slice the solo fighter into two.
The Asian giant hornet is the largest in the world measuring up to 50mm with a whopping wingspan around 76mm. Its stinger is 6mm long, though it is its powerful mandibles that wreak all the havoc at the hive.
The Asian giant hornet is such an efficient fighting machine that it is capable of slicing through 40 bees per minute. This means that a mere score of these hornets will decimate an entire hive of 20 000 European honey bees in just a few hours.
For this reason European honey bees are difficult to raise in Japan. To see for yourself check out this now famous Hornets from Hell video from National Geophraphic.
Don’t mix up your hornets
It is important not to confuse Asian giant hornet vespa mandarinia with the Asian hornet vespa velutina, a lot smaller, in fact, even smaller than the European hornet Vespa Crabro. It is around 30mm long.
The Asian hornet, however, has already reached the shores of Europe and is spreading throughout the south of France.
This type of hornet is also a bee predator preying on forager bees during pollen-gathering hours. It will wait for them at the entrance of the hive to return fatigued and weighed down by their diligente harvesting. Sometimes the hornets will try to plunder inside if there are only a few workers left behind. I have not heard of it attacking the entire colony as do Asian Giant hornets, though, I suppose one reason is that their mandibles are not as ferocious being so much smaller.
How Asian hornet made it into Europe
It is thought that the Asian hornet reached the shores of France aboard a Chinese ship in 2004. It quickly gained its reputation as a honeybee killer par excellence, catching them on the wing, and it has since continued to multiply at an alarming rate.
It rapidly colonized southwest France and is now present in 39 departments and is moving north at the gates of Paris. It has begun to colonize north Spain and the UK is expecting its migration by 2014.
It has no natural enemies in Europe apart from man and the queen is able to establish a nest in an incredibly short delay. Come springtime she will start the nest by herself then lay eggs which a few weeks later will become the first nest workers so multiplying the workload fiftyfold while she focuses on further producing eggs for the continued expansion of the colony.
One way to reduce their numbers is to set hornet traps in the spring and to destroy as many nests and queens as possible.
It not only attacks bees but other pollinators as well such as crickets, butterflies, flies and other insects. They also eat spiders. But the bees being our number pollinator means there reduction in numbers will have a direct result on crop yields.
That said, it has been noted that one possible advantage of their appearance is their natural capacity to hunt pest insects. Andt won’t be long before nature readjusts the balance. No doubt birds will start fitting into the food chain. In fact, in the period of pre-winter decline of the colony, it has already been noted that green woodpeckers, jays and tits are often seen pillaging nests and eating the remaining larvae.
No more bees, no more pollination, no more man
But the fact that this species of hornet has arrived in Europe at all must beg the question: if the Asian hornet has landed in France and in the US, why can’t the Asian giant hornet do so as well? If it did, its presence would be devastating, even more so than the present invader.
Was it Einstein who said, if bees die out humans will only have four years to live? No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man. Whether the great man really did say this is debatable, but what should be in everyone’s thoughts today is the point the quote actually makes, whoever it be by.
For those living in GB there is a response plan for dealing with the Asian hornet should it arrive in Britain. You can download the full plan from the government website here.
Have you had any experiences with any of these hornets?