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Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Asian Giant 'Murder' Hornets 

Nathan Gibson
Updated May 5, 2020 12.2k views 13 items

In May 2020, amid worldwide anxiety surrounding COVID-19, a new fear entered the public consciousness: so-called "murder hornets" appeared in the United States. And the fear isn't unwarranted. The Asian giant hornet - scientific name vespa mandarinia - is one of the most feared insects in the world. Over the last few years, countries such as Japan and China have reported devastating consequences from hornet attacks. The world’s largest hornet, this Asian variety is essentially like a huge wasp that can sting victims multiple times.

Also known as the yak-killer hornet, this insect has developed a fearsome reputation for its aggressive nature and vicious method for killing prey. Giant hornets are even capable of causing human death with their powerful, organ-crashing venom.

As such, it's important to know as much about these hornets as possible to avoid any potential danger. 

The Hornets Can Grow To A Huge Size
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Photo: Douglas Bittinger/Flickr

The Asian giant hornet is aptly named. It's the largest hornet in the world and a fully grown adult can almost completely cover a human’s hand. The winged creatures are capable of growing up to 2 inches in length and can have a wingspan of up to 3 inches. This makes them many times larger than a typical wasp or hornet. Their stingers are typically as long as 1/4 of an inch.

They're Responsible For Up To 40 Deaths A Year
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Many insects' bites and stings  prove fatal only if their human victim is allergic. The Asian giant hornet is different because its venom is strong enough to kill even an allergy-free human, causing an alarming amount of injuries. Authorities in Japan report that around 40 people are killed every year after being stung by this bug. A similar amount of people are killed annually in China.

They Can Easily Sting Through Beekeeper Suits
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Photo: rickpilot_2000/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

The Asian giant hornet's stinger can reach lengths up to 6mm, or about 0.24 inches. This is long enough to pierce through articles of clothing, including the protective suits worn by beekeepers.

Conrad Bérubé, a beekeeper in Vancouver Island, British Columbia, reported that an Asian giant hornet stung through his suit and the sweatpants underneath.

Their Stings Are Reportedly Excruciating
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Those who have endured stings from the Asian giant hornet report excruciating pain afterward. Beekeeper and entomologist Conrad Bérubé of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, told The New York Times that the sting felt "like having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into [his] flesh." Later, Bérubé stated his legs ached as though he had the flu.

Internet personality Coyote Peterson allowed the hornet to sting him on his Brave Wilderness YouTube series. In the clip, Peterson screams in pain as a massive welt instantly forms on his arm.