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Giant Asian hornets: why they are dangerous and how to behave in case of encounter

Giant Asian hornets

Present in large quantities in the United States, and perhaps also in Italy, giant Asian hornets represent a great risk for humans.

They are invading the United States , where they have been spotted since November, and several (unconfirmed) sources claim that they are already present in Italy , particularly in Liguria and Lazio.

Accused of being insect killers , giant Asian hornets in their home country, Japan, cause several deaths every year , including among humans. In today’s article we will find out more about who these killer wasps are, what risks they pose to humans and how to defend themselves from them.

Giant Asian Hornets: What Are They?

The giant Asian hornet, also known by the scientific name of Vespa mandarinia , is undoubtedly the largest hornet in the world : it can reach 5 centimeters in length (which becomes 5 and a half for the queen).

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It is an insect originating in Asia (hence the name) and, although it can be found in numerous states, most of the specimens are located in the mountain areas of Japan .

Despite the larger size, the insect looks very similar to that of other vespids. This bumblebee has a sting of about 6 millimeters. The poison contained inside, like that of bees and wasps, is capable of damaging the tissues.

The risks posed by the presence of giant Asian hornets mainly concern the world of beekeeping . This invasive species kills bees, going to behead them, and is able to exterminate thousands of these insects in just one hour. However, this species is aggressive (and in some cases lethal) even against men.

Are killer wasps dangerous to humans?

The giant Asian hornets, as well as being a danger to bees, are aggressive towards humans: in Japan they are responsible for over 50 deaths every year.

Their danger derives from the fact that, in addition to the normal poison (actually a cytolytic peptide ) contained in the stings of bees and wasps, this killer wasp also injects in the victim a substance that is called mandaratoxin . The latter, if injected in a sufficient dose, is toxic and can lead to anaphylactic shock even to people who do not suffer from any allergy.

In addition, the sting of the Japanese hornet contains acetylcholine , which stimulates the nerve fibers responsible for pain. Among the contents of its poison there are also components that give off a smell capable of inducing the attack of other hornets.

Finally, the sting, like that of common wasps and unlike that of bees (whose pollen helps to lose weight), is free of barb . Hence, it is possible for them to sting multiple times in sequence.

How to protect yourself from Japanese hornets

Giant Asian hornets are a particularly aggressive species. However, they rarely attack if you keep a sufficient distance: it is advisable never to go below ten meters .

Avoiding wearing black could help prevent attacks: this color is said to be able to attract the insect.

In case of puncture, try to move quickly but with a dry movement. Excessive movements will favor subsequent punctures and increase the risk of incurring an anaphylactic shock (although in some cases a single puncture is sufficient).

After being attacked, try to remove the poison from the wound using a tool that allows you to achieve a vacuum condition (with a mechanism similar to that of a suction cup plunger). Also, remember to wash the wound . It is advisable to contact a doctor immediately.

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