The Asian giant hornet, also called mandarin wasp or yak-killer hornet, is the largest hornet in the world, as its body can reach a size of 5 cm with a wingspan of about 8 cm. It is a hymenoptera native to south-east Asia (it is common to find nests in Japanese mountainous regions).
Diet and habits of the Asian giant hornet
One thing that will certainly make you realize the dangerousness of this insect is its feeding: the Asian giant hornet, in fact, feeds mainly on bees and a single specimen can kill almost 40 in a minute (in support of this, just think that a single mandarin wasp weighs as much as 20 bees). Mandarin wasps spend a good part of the winter inside their nests, which are usually built underground (often inside dens abandoned by other animals) or in the cavities in tree trunks.
A danger for man
Let us start as usual with a statistic: every year, in Japan alone, there are about forty victims and more than a thousand wounded caused by attacks by this insect. The deaths are usually caused by anaphylactic shocks due to allergies to toxins contained in the hornet’s venom; even if you survive, however, a sting could cause serious cardiac, kidney and liver damage. The almost “horrorific” aspect of an attack of the Mandarin wasp is the fact that, once it has suffered a sting, a pheromone is released which has the purpose of attracting the other specimens present in the area; and therefore, as if the fact of having been stung once was not enough, there is also the risk of subsequently suffering dozens of attacks from the other specimens of the nest (in south-east Asia there are reports of men stung even more than thirty times in a few minutes).
A further danger lies in the fact that, once a sting has been taken, the giant bumblebee does not lose its sting, so it is likely to return to attack the unfortunate victim. In short, an experience not to be experienced on one’s own skin.
What to do if you’re stung?
Obviously, the first thing to do is to run immediately to the emergency room or in any case to call for help; while waiting, it is advisable to apply pressure and flood the wound with drinks rich in tannic compounds (such as coffee, tea or red wine) which, being strong antioxidants, can slow down the spread of the poison. To try to limit possible allergies to toxins, it is also advisable to spread cortisone ointments and take antihistamines. Moreover, as reported above, you should move away from the area where you have been stung, because it is likely that further specimens will arrive; it is important, however, to avoid sudden movements to avoid feeding the already high aggressiveness of these insects. Finally, the oral sucking of the venom from the wound is not recommended, because in this way the toxins might transfer also to the mouth.
Are we in danger?
In recent years, the killer bumblebee has migrated from South-East Asia to Europe (probably some specimens arrived in the old continent aboard a container of Chinese ceramics and then quickly began to reproduce); there have been multiple sightings especially in the United Kingdom, the Iberian Peninsula and France (where there are already 6 deaths caused by attacks); in recent times the number of sightings is beginning to increase also in Italy, especially in Liguria, Piedmont and Lombardy. So it can be said that the danger is also coming from us.
What to do if you suffer an infestation?
The first, essential, thing to do if you suspect that the sighted nest is populated by mandarin wasps is to stay very far away from them: such insects, in fact, attack anyone at a distance of less than 10 meters from their home; another precaution that is useful to take is to avoid wearing black, since it is a color that particularly attracts this hornet. At this point, nothing else can be done other than contacting a pest control company that can eliminate insects by attracting them with sugar compounds and light beer (to which they seem to be very attracted) and immobilising them by means of sticky traps or by burning them. In any case, this is not an easy task even for a professional in the sector, given the extreme aggressiveness and danger of this insect.