In Japan, there is a very beautiful insect that has one of the most painful stings in world. Along with the Amazon's Bullet Ant, the Japanese Giant Hornet's sting is one of the most efficient pain-inflicting mechanisms present in nature. Its quarter-inch venomous stiletto is very big, not to mention scary, for an insect five times the size of a European honeybee. If the Bullet Ant got it's name from its reputation that you feel like you've been shot when it bites and stings, the Japanese Giant Hornet's sting supposedly feels like a €hot nail being driven into your flesh€. It's not just that. The venom reacts with nerves and cells in your skin, causing severe swelling. When stung multiple times, the neurotoxins in the venom can even kill.
Then we have the Honeybee, or the European Honeybee to be exact. It's a very much loved creature in almost every part of the world. Maybe because almost everyone loves honey in the first place. Though its sting also hurts and that bee attacks can actually kill you, honeybees have been bred and managed so well that honey is very widely produced all over the world. European Honeybees are also more docile than their Africanized cousins, otherwise known as killer bees.
In Japan, many European honeybees were imported for honey farms situated in the rural prefectures. It was all nice and dandy until the local hornets terrorized the bees. They killed the bees and plundered the honey. How's that for a miniature epic war?
It's not very hard to imagine the hornets being the villains in this war. Hey, the bees are the ultimate underdogs here. They work hard for their honey and they don't hurt anyone. Only people have the right to plunder their coffers. They produce more than they can consume anyway. The hornets, on the other hand, well... They're pretty mean. One hornet can kill as many as 10 bees during an attack. Their exoskeleton is too hard for the bees to sting them.
But are the bees helpless? Actually, no. In spite of being cute and tiny, nature has provided them with two advantages. First, there's A LOT of them. Bees can number in the hundreds in big hives. Second, they're very coordinated.
Honeybees have only one shot though. Before they attack, hornets send out scouts to look for hives. When they find a hive, they release pheromones or a chemical signal in the air that calls other hornets to the hive. At best, the bees' defense is a preventive one. They have to kill the scout before everything turns to utter chaos.
They kill the scout smothering it with their bodies. A lot of them die in the process. But when they've overpowered the hornet, they vibrate rapidly. When they do this, they heat up. So much that the hornet is practically being cooked alive. When it dies, the bees fly away and go on with their normal busy lives. How's that for an underdog?
Do you have hornet problem? Are you afraid of getting stung? http://www.waspcatcher.org/€">WaspCatchers.org has a lot of information about what you can do to get rid of a hornet or wasp infestation. Let's face it. Stings hurt.