1. Richard Harris says

    I believe that the (or a) native species of Japanese bee, which isn’t much good for commercial honey production, is good at dealing with the killer hornets. They mob each hornet that attacks their nest, & settle upon it, thereby raising its temperature until it dies of heat stress.

    European bees that are good for commercial honey production are defenceless.

  2. holbach says

    Hey, perhaps PZ can genetically reprogram those giant
    Japanese hornets to just attack humans of the religious
    bent. Wow, talk about genetically induced extermination!

  3. says

    You know WHY European bees are defenseless? ATHEISM and GUN CONTROL, that’s why! God, guns and beeswax are what MADE this country!

  4. Richard Harris says

    Cory, from a Creationist perspective, I guess the god-goobers have to conclude that their god-thing doesn’t want the Japanese to eat much honey, unless they import it.

    That’s okay – it’s quite straightforward & rational, compared to the other crap they have to believe.

    I don’t know where the human deaths, due to these beasties, fits into their scheme of things. Maybe the god-thing has hissy fits? Yeah, that figures. According to their bible book, it used to take out whole cities, & worse.

  5. mothra says

    Too much hype. The hornets, just like many American species, slice and dice caterpillars and are important natural predators of horticultural, garden and crop pests.

    Others on the list: Bullet ant- one of many species used by native peoples to hold wounds closed.

    Army/Driver ants- ditto.

    Africanized honeybee- If you live on a savannah where a passing hungry elephant can push over the tree where your hive is, ultra-aggression on defense is the only way (this in no way vindicates the Bush war doctrine).

    Bot fly: Rodent control (of course there are species that attack ungulates- remember the ‘turning’ gnu in the documentary ‘Year of the Wildebeast’) and a fascinating evolutionary story. Bot flies mimic bumblebees. Human bot flies (New World Tropics) lay eggs on female mosquitoes. When the mosquito alights on a human host, larval eclosion from the eggs is initiated due to heat of the host. Bot larvae burrow into the skin. If you just leave them be, the wound will heal. There will be a scar. If you inadvertently kill the larvae you run a great change of septicemia. Only some of the sheep bots and ungulate bots do the damage shown on the link.

    As an entomologist, were I to create such a list, it would include things such as Anopheles mosquitoes- vectors of malaria, African locusts of the genera Schistocerca and Nomadacris which cause famines. Black flies causing river blindness. And let’s not forget the Oriental rat flea, vector of the bubonic plague bacillus. All so much worse than the minor irritants those bad five of the list would be.

  6. rp says

    Hey, you’ve got religious whacko snake handlers. Why not encourage religious whacko giant hornet handlers! They could clean out most of a church in an evening.

  7. jeff says

    Bloody ‘ell. The more I learn about this universe, the I more realize what a stinking rotten treacherous place it actually is. Hard to see why anyone would want to live here.

  8. says

    Three cheers for R. Harris @2. Yes, these are mambo-jambo hornets, and yes, a squadron of them can destroy a hive. How much more impressive, then, that bees (unable to penetrate the hornet’s armour with their stingers), have hit upon the expedient of cooking them to death with their own massed body heat. Clever and creative is more interesting than big and strong any day of the week.

    Mothra @6 is right, too. I love Zooillogix, but the insects they highlight are more dramatic than dangerous. To Mothra’s list I’d add the ordinary European mosquito, presumably Culex something-or-other. They don’t spread any diseases worth worrying about[1]. But they are irritating beyond description and seasonally omnipresent, whereas I am only very occasionally molested by bot-flies while walking to work.

    I once read an online account (and regret that I no longer remember where) of researchers working with bullet ants in the field. Inevitably, everybody would be stung now and then. (These insects are also called “24 hour ants”, because apparently the pain of the sting lasts that long.) Stung workers immediately repaired to the bar, where they began a course of combined beer-and-antihistamine therapy until the pain dulled a bit. I have only ever been stung by Vespa vulgaris, and so quite admire these people.

    [1] Not worth worrying about if you are H. sapiens, that is. Plain old mosquitos are a major vector of myxomatosis (especially among pet rabbits, which are less likely to be exposed to fleas). One of my daughter’s bunnies had the disease a few months ago, but rather surprisingly recovered. (Surprising, because even rabbits that have been inoculated, as she was, usually die if they become infected.) Interestingly, her hutchmate did not become ill at all. Either he was not bitten by an infected mosquito, or his immune system was more efficient than hers about turning the inoculation into antibodies. In any event, this tends to bear out what our vet told us is the new wisdom: contrary to what people used to think, bunnies don’t readily fall ill with myxomatosis through mere contact with diseased bunnies.

  9. says

    Jeff @9,

    what ever are you on about? Bullet ants (to take one example) are very inconvenient things to be stung by, and a bot fly larva (to take another) must be a very annoying thing to have under one’s skin. But aren’t you glad to live in a world that has such magnificent animals in it?

  10. jeff says

    Mrs Tilton: Well, I’m sure it would be a magnificent world if just I could manage to actually be a Japanese Giant Hornet. Is there somewhere I can apply for that? Or am I just stuck with this ape-creature thing?

  11. says


    I fear that transforming you into a Japanese Giant Hornet will remain beyond our abilities for some time yet. Given the current state of the technological art, it’s almost certainly too late to do anything about your somatic cells.

    But look on the bright side. Genetic manipulation technology is progressing by leaps and bounds, and any day now we will be able to excise the Jeffness from your genome and replace it with JGHness. Some day very soon, I am confident, you will rejoice that your children are Japanese Giant Hornets.

  12. Thanny says

    Regarding bot flies, I read an account about a man who got two larva in his scrotum in Costa Rica. He had severe, shooting pain until they were removed by a doctor.

    Try letting *that* run its natural course.

    No. Thank. You.

  13. Fernando Magyar says

    Re# 14, I grew up in Brazil and had a few bot fly encounters in the wild, no big deal really, a nice piece of raw bacon usually entices them to crawl out of your skin into the tastier morsel. However, I have a hard time imagining what someone was doing to get two of them in their scrotum?!

  14. Gene says

    Damit, P.Z., thanks for freaking me out. I live in Japan. It’s almost enought to make me want to slink back to North Carolina, but well, you know, between the brown recluses and the Baptists…

  15. Denis Loubet says

    I have such a fear of wasps and hornets that I think I would just die at the sight of that giant hornet, and spare myself all the stinging, and the acid in the eyes, and the screaming, and the flailing about.

    Excuse me, I’m going to go have a cumulative attack of the willies now.


  16. ssjessiechan says

    Man, the sad thing is, I DID think “oh, it’s so cute!” and had to refrain from aspiring to catch one when I inevitably go to Japan one day. I mean, so huge and petable. It’s hard to pet regular sized bees and wasps.

    Maybe I can content myself if I ever manage to catch a Potato Bug (Jerusalem Cricket) like I keep trying to… one of these days I’ll find one! I hear enough horror stories.

  17. says

    However, I have a hard time imagining what someone was doing to get two of them in their scrotum?!

    Well, where should one keep one’s botflies, hmm?

  18. says

    I HATE bugs. Ew, just ew.

    Come visit Seattle, then. First place I ever lived where lots of places don’t even *have* window screens. Having grown up in the South, for me, that was quite a concept!

    Not enough bugs to need them for that purpose, although I still insist on having them as cat-confining devices.

  19. says

    Come visit Seattle, then. First place I ever lived where lots of places don’t even *have* window screens. Having grown up in the South, for me, that was quite a concept

    The primary two members of my thesis committee do an annual canoe trip with grad students to the Boundary Waters. There are enough mosquitos in southern MN to dissuade me from going north…and I’d just rather stay among the steel and concrete and glass; I’m a city girl.

  20. says

    There are enough mosquitos in southern MN to dissuade me from going north…and I’d just rather stay among the steel and concrete and glass; I’m a city girl.

    Ah, but that’s my point: Seattle = steel + concrete + glass – bugs.

    I’m not sure how we managed to miss out on the mosquitoes compared to further North; I’ve seen ones in Alaska and Lappland that could take a small cow down. West of the Cascade Mountains, we seem to have missed out on toxic and venomous plants and animals of all kinds, a situation that suits me just fine, since if it bites, stings, or otherwise envenomates, I’ll manage to find it somehow.

  21. mothra says

    If you want ‘bug free,’ central Antarctica is the (only) terrestrial place for you. Otherwise, oceans below the photic zone, and then you have crustaceans– which at least taste better.

  22. Will Von Wizzlepig says

    Japan is indeed the land of “scream-like-a-girl and pee yourself” bugs.

    I’ve seen those damn things, and thankfully the tend to mind their own business, unlike the yellojackets here in the states.

    The first time I saw one (at about 28 years old), it was flying about 15 feet above me, and I swear I almost ran. It wasn’t even flying towards me. My feet just had that default instinct.

    The cicada there will scare the crap out of you, too. Add one of those spastic light-circling moths to a matchbox car, give it wings and a face designed by detroit in the 1950’s, and that’s the “semi”- Japanese cicada. eew.