Bites, Pinches, Poisons, and Stings: The Asian Giant Hornet

To celebrate the opening of Anniston Museum of Natural History’s newest exhibit, Bites, Pinches, Poisons, and Stings, the Collections Department will highlight one specimen found in the exhibit per month during the exhibit’s five-month run. This month, we are taking a closer look at a critter that has been in the news often as of late: the Asian giant hornet.


The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is native to Asia’s temperate climates, including parts of Russia. They are large flying insects that measure up to 1 ¾ inches long. Their diets typically include smaller insects, tree sap, other bees, and honey. These hornets can destroy a beehive quickly. They are aggressive, social hunters and use pheromones to call reinforcements to attack a hive after scouting it. In regions where the Asian hornet occurs naturally, bees have adapted to sensing the pheromone to defend themselves. They may create a trap to kill the hornet scout or raise the hive’s temperature through rapid motion. Asian giant hornets cannot withstand high temperatures.


The Asian giant hornet created a buzz within the media this past year when they appeared on American soil. The media dubbed the large hornet the “murder hornet” because of its large size and excruciating sting. These hornets pose a limited threat to humans, as one sting is not enough to kill someone not allergic to the venom. American honeybees, however, are at significant risk. Should the Asian giant hornet become invasive, it will deal a devastating blow to honeybee populations and our food supply. Bees pollinate around 90% of all plants, one-fourth of which includes crops.


To limit the potential of the Asian giant hornet becoming invasive, scientists track individual hornets found in the Pacific Northwest back to their nests. The nests are then sealed and vacuumed until empty. It is challenging to track these hornets, as their nests are usually inside of trees or the ground, and they may travel upwards of five miles in search of food.


Visit us and learn more about the Asian giant hornet in Bites, Pinches, Poisons, and Stings, on display in Anniston Museum’s changing exhibit gallery until July 2021.