I, for One, Welcome our New Giant Stinging Overlords

October 6, 2013


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If you’re in a rush, here’s the takeaway. Giant Asian Hornets have exploded in numbers due to recent warm winter and spring weather. They sting and kill you. They’ve been spotted in the US.

You can “like” them on Facebook.

Huffington Post:

Climate change might be contributing to a global rise in insect numbers. As if that weren’t bad enough, some of the bugs that appear to be benefitting from that population surge are giant Asian hornets that are killing people unfortunate enough to disturb them.


Honeybees, hornets and wasps are all able to deliver painful and potentially lethal stings; but while bees are seen as doers of good, wasps and hornets have long been associated with evil.

Most deaths occur when a victim is stung repeatedly and injected with large amounts of venom. The hornet’s large size – and its ability, unlike honeybees, to sting multiple times – mean that a victim can quickly receive a lethal dose.

One possible reason for the recent wave of attacks in China may be increased encounters with hornet nests, since multiple attacks usually occur when the insects defend their nests.

Hornets go through natural population cycles: in some years nests are scarce, while in others nests can be very common, as may be the case in central China. The reasons for this are numerous, but a prolonged period of warm weather in spring and autumn ensures an abundant food supply, allowing colonies to grow to large sizes.

Hornets are a top predator – the lions of the insect world. They have few natural predators, and depending on the species their nests can contain hundreds or thousands of female workers by the autumn (the males cannot sting). This is particularly impressive since in the spring the colony is started by a single queen who mated in the previous autumn and has spent the winter hibernating.

More than 99% of queens normally die over winter and spring, so small variations in this mortality rate can lead to massive differences in the numbers of nests each year. So given the opportunity, a hornet population has a massive potential to expand rapidly, which has happened recently with the accidental introduction of the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) to France and Korea.


The wasps that have been killing people aren’t just any old wasps. They’re thought to be Vespa mandarinia, or, “Asian giant hornets.” Asian giant hornets are the largest hornets in the world. They’re the Asia of hornets, in fact. The average one grows to 2.2 inches in length, which is small compared to a car but TERRIFYINGLY HUGE when you consider it is a wasp the size of a meatball. If you never want to feel peace again, you can check out an image of four (dead) queen hornets—which are even bigger than workers and males—here, with a hand to give them scale.

This year, the hornet attacks in China have been more frequent than usual; one health official suggested to the AP that warmer temperatures have led to increased breeding among the insects. The mayor of one affected city in Shaanxi announced last week plans to establish a 24-hour emergency response team to combat hornets in light of the recent fatalities. (Wasp season in China runs from May to November.)

Account of sting effect below:

From video description:

3-4 stings can reputedly be fatal but it would depend on your reaction – they are amongst the most poisonous insects on earth. The symptoms for me were acute pain — the oft quoted ‘hot nail’ is pretty accurate but that’s just the start of it — it’s then like a chemical pain bomb going off under your skin – shortness of breath, nausea, paralysis and pronounced swelling of affected area, faintness. The fainting is the worst, because having already read on the internet that they can be deadly, you don’t want any of that ‘fade to black’ thing happening. My reaction was stronger the second time because I was stung twice by the same hornet. The fainting and nausea seemed to pass after 30 minutes, and that is probably the danger zone – but it hurts like hell for a good 4 hours.
If you do get stung, seek medical attention and they’ll give you an anti-histamine shot and you should be ok.
I also found soaking the affected part in hot water seemed to relieve the pain during the first few hours, then icing it after that.
If you encounter a nest, the technique, supposedly, is to crouch down, keep your hands down, and slowly move away. I ran, and one followed me, hovered for a second to suss out a point of attack, then latched onto my throat with its sticky feet and injected me. I kept running after that and no others followed – so I wouldn’t dismiss running as an escape method entirely. Don’t wear brightly coloured clothing or perfume when you go hiking.
If you see one flying around by itself — I see them daily around my house – it’s probably not a threat, just out hunting for food. Though they are curious, and routinely buzz around my ears, which still freaks me out. Their main food target is the larvae of other insects, especially bees, which they feed to their own larvae.

Upside – More giant insect larvae to add to our jellyfish sushi.

38 Responses to “I, for One, Welcome our New Giant Stinging Overlords”

  1. kingdube Says:

    Clearly, all life on Earth is being stimulated by global warming and enhanced atmospheric CO2 (including, of course, polar bears).

  2. daveburton Says:

    Perhaps the Chinese need to build more wind turbines, to thin out the hornet populations they way they thin out the bird populations.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    OMG!!! What next?

    • omnologos Says:

      It’s easy…

      1. Every fluffy thing will be on the brink of extinction

      2. Every arthropod will be on the brink of taking over the world

      3. About fluffy arthopods, there is no consensus yet.

      • MorinMoss Says:

        So a 50-50 chance, you’ll make it through the holocaust?

      • Good one Omno! That was very funny. A stronger dose of humor added to your usual sarcasm makes all the difference.

        Over time, you’ve made it clear that you think there’s significant room for improvement in how climate science is communicated. Polling trends support your point. Question – What is your opinion of the science?

        • omnologos Says:

          the science is ruined by bandwagon jumpers and governments – am not sure how much of it will survive the age really.

          Climatology is a cursed endeavor.

          • How disappointing. You’re just another believer in vast fiendish plots with a good gift of gab.

          • omnologos Says:

            Funny how you people revert automatically to conspiracy theorism -something I’ve always guarded against because like ipcc climatology it explains everything iow nothing.

            Bandwagonerds (*) ruin the science by pretending it claims the unclaimable like giant hornets and stronger hurricanes -ridicule is a tweet away. Cue the history of genetics, hindered for decades by association with eugenics.

            Governments ruin the science by pretending it claims the unclaimable like usable regional models. The whole modelling obsession is preventing further understanding of the climate and has polarized the debate bringing all possibility of action to a halt.

            (*) phone keyboard joke

          • Okay, so you’re not a conspiracy nut. You do know that is a common premise of climate science skepticism. (Or how do you succinctly categorize your doubtful perspective?)

            How is “modelling obsession” preventing understanding and halting action with certainty?

            (3AM here. Good night.)

  4. MorinMoss Says:

    A long time ago, I watched a flick called Damnation Alley on the big screen.
    I may yet live long enough for it to become reality.

  5. redskylite Says:

    When Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius theorised and calculated the effects of GHG way back in 1896, he thought it would be beneficial to mankind, stave off ice ages (little or big), feed the increasing populations by enhancing vegetation growth. Unfortunately he did not foresee the amount of GHG our thirst for fossil fuels would produce. Many people still hold his simplistic view (you can see them on deniers blogs). Giant Hornets have killed 30 – 40 people each year in Japan for many years now. There will be increasing amounts of manifestations of climate change in the future, it won’t be funny or troll worthy any more, trolls can pooh pooh all the pointers and science, hiding behind the safety of the early 21st century calm… but not for much longer…

    • Also, Paleoclimatology was barely a concept in 1896. No one could have understood the impact of a sudden disruption of the geological carbon cycle. In 2013, it’s a strange pity that so many people choose ignorance.

      • omnologos Says:

        funny how that’s exactly how people of 2113 will talk of 2013’s climatology ;0)

        • Well, you do have quite the crystal ball. They might think of 2013 climatology much like 2013 scientists think of 1913 physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, etc. Incomplete, but usefully applicable.

        • Mahn England Says:

          Yes… an interesting speculation Maurizio.

          In 1913 Niels Bohr published his “Trilogy” papers and one hundred years on we realise that he wasn’t entirely right…but then again he wasn’t completely wrong either. 🙂

          • omnologos Says:

            I never claimed contemporary climatology be “completely wrong”. That’d be absurd and as the saying goes not even the astrologer can achieve that.

            As a matter of fact, most of the texts in all IPCC reports will likely survive the test of time, although, like a good religious piece, it may have to be reinterpreted.

            My reply was to Charles’ “paleoclimatology was barely a concept in 1896”. It is a perilous argument because there is no indication people of the future won’t keep having the same impression of any of our sciences.

  6. andrewfez Says:


    China Reopens Roads, Airports Closed by Smog as Travelers Return

    ‘The closures yesterday of six expressways and disruption at Beijing Capital International Airport underscore the severity of pollution that has become the top cause of social unrest in China. Premier Li Keqiang has pledged a cleanup that includes cutting coal consumption, shutting steel plants and controlling the number of cars.’


    Their at the point where smog is starting to interfere with car and plane travel (i.e. their economy). Might as well add some hornets in there too…

  7. miffedmax Says:

    It’s time to practice skeet shooting and purchase an autoshotgun.

  8. redskylite Says:

    Kind of reminds me of the very hot U.K summer of 1976, when the tide was washing up huge amounts of drowned ladybirds (who were attempting to migrate). The insects invaded the U.K coastal resort (Weston Super Mare) I was living in then and were smothering the whole town. Attached is an interesting National Geographic report on the giant insects in China. Thank God they were only ladybirds back in 76 and not Giant Hornets.


  9. omnologos Says:

    Charles: How is “modelling obsession” preventing understanding and halting action with certainty?

    I should blog about it but in a few words…as Chris Rapley once said at the IoP in London, seismologists have it easy because nobody asks them to forecast quakes (iow society has given up on that quest).

    Scientists of Earth movements are therefore free to pursue science without the constant distraction of having to be policy-relevant. This is the opposite case as in climate science, where all funding is pivoted around the idea that the scientific results will be policy-relevant. Cue modelling.

    That’s why it’s IPCC and not just IPC…without a change to project/forecast (without modelling), interest in climatology would be far less. OTOH this means people are tasked to look at changes and changes alone, or worse, only at detrimental changes. Rather than understandings the climate, we are constantly bombarded with a long list of everything that could possibly go wrong.

    This polarizes the debate, creating an armada of people determined to stop the “believers’. and disempowers the rest of the citizenship, who cannot simply tolerate alarm #5,001 and lose interest.

    • Well, stories about giant hornets may not be easily (de)prioritized by most people. However, I doubt that there’s any climate model that has a hornet parameter.

      Do you think that it’s strange that humans are extra curious about the climate of our only planet once we knew that the climate can and does significantly change – and started to get a pretty good handle on why? Computers models are not going to accurately predict what London’s climate will be in 2060, but they are essential tools for understanding how a complex system operates.

      Though you may not think that climate science should have policy implications, there are enough of us who do that we try to build support for the endeavor. Trying to tell a slow moving, big picture story is hard. The physics and chemistry is in. Statistics are measured in decades, so the tale is told using the data points that humans have evolved to understand. We can also choose to watch where big bugs choose to live, and how they do when they get there – or not.

      • omnologos Says:

        I agree that computer models are essential tools for understanding how a complex system operates. The problem is the excessive focus on them.

        I have never said climate science should not have policy implications. I said that all funding is currently pivoted around the idea that the scientific results will be policy-relevant. If this doesn’t enslave science to politics, I do not know what does.

        Finally if you want to build support for the “endeavor” (whatever you mean that to be), you should be the first one to abhor polarization. As we can read about in our very present, the only result of polarization is total stalemate.

        • MorinMoss Says:

          IMO, the “excessive focus” has long been from the opposing side as they see that as something they can attack or discredit – “show us the code” and all that.

          The serious AGW proponents have largely been focusing on the real-world changes for about a decade.

          Of course there’s the long-running kerfuffle over the Hockey Stick, never mind that it’s been corroborated by so many other natural proxies, it’s now a hockey team.

          • greenman3610 Says:

            hockey league is the term mann now uses

          • omnologos Says:

            BREAKING: Hammer confirms: world “looks like a nail”

          • MorinMoss Says:

            And, as the mounting mountains of evidence has been warning us, it’s HAMMER time.

          • omnologos Says:

            Lowell had canals of evidence too.

            Going back to the original point, what’s the point of an ipcc that sees no extremes outside natural variability for some time, without the contribution of models to foretell the likely future paths?

            Governments -the I in IPCC -need advice for the future not goateed obsessed communication failures. They need the output of models and are using that no matter what.

        • In the context of my comment, “endeavor” means the ongoing scientific infrastructure that focuses on better understanding the planet’s climate and geology, as well as what it takes to communicate that knowledge. Unfortunately, the “endeavor” is constantly devoting time dealing with interference from semi-coherent, dissembling, fake intellectual pimps. It seems that these days that “abhorring polarization” means to agree with bull shit.

          • omnologos Says:

            I am sorry Charles but your whining is just too silly. People that want to understand the climate don’t waste time eg “trying not to provide fodder to the skeptics”.

            When NASA got bombarded with claims about doctored Mars surface images, it didn’t waste time (or whine), rather instituted a policy of publishing raw images as soon as feasible. The problem disappeared.

            Climate science seems like the only scientific area where the focus is instead removal of dissent, as if a blogger had anything to do with preventing truth from getting discovered. Actually, this focus on “better communication” is what one would expect from people that don’t believe themselves to have enough evidence to back their claims.

          • With the possible exception of Omnology, Climate Science is like all other science. It’s the public discussion of climate science that’s different.
            Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

          • omnologos Says:

            as I said, ignorant mentions of my internet moniker are rhetorical devices marking failure in one’s argument. try again.

            Explain how astronomy is hindered (also in the public arena) by astrology bloggers, or biology by creationist ones. I understand that physics has moved forward despite thousands of pages dedicated to perpetual motion machines. Bonus points if you avoid making conspiracy theorist claims à la Mooney.

  10. According to you, Omnology is germane to your internet name. I would have to “use every conceptual tool available and some not yet invented” to “leapfrog over disciplinary barriers” to even begin to comprehend your latest questions.


    • omnologos Says:

      I am not and never have been the subject of this or any other blog post by Peter, or anybody else…apart from creationists, chemtrailers, and rabid warmists.

      Pick your preferred category.

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