In Japan, the ‘Murder Hornet’ Is Both a Lethal Threat and a Tasty Treat

May 05, 2020 · 57 comments
J.P. Johnson (New Jersey)
Please, no one tell Trump about this. It'll be promoted as the next COVID-19 treatment before you know it.
Beth (Bethesda, MD)
If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em.
Sneadly (Austin)
They don’t know how they got here. I wonder if they floated over on a raft of tsunami debris.
Dheep' (Midgard)
Of course they have a pretty good idea how they got here. And when you see where they are migrating from, it's pretty easy to figure out.
Bob Castro (NYC)
For a culture in which fugu is considered a delicacy I guess hebo-gohan fits in nicely.
QED (NYC)
I have to wonder how responsible the "if it moves, eat it" food cultures throughout Asia are for the various respiratory diseases that have emerged from that region in the past decades. If wild animals were not not the menu in Wuhan, would we have been spared COVID-19?
Susan StoHelit (San Diego)
@QED "If it moves, eat it" is common in most cultures - food isn't always plentiful, and anything edible - snails, bugs, roots of plants - is eaten. Much of the world continues to live this way - food is not plentiful everywhere. We are fortunate that we don't have this issue, but for others, it's not a gourmet taste sensation, it's about staying alive.
Some Body (USA)
@Susan StoHelit I think you are right about the tendency of most cultures to adopt meat-eating practices. But I don't think the wrigglers sold in cages in wet markets are what you'd call sustenance for the poor, hungry masses. What you describe is more like foraging, eating what comes your way. The cultural stumbling block here is superstition associated with consumption of certain species, and the awful consequences of the hunting, trapping, caging, transport, and commingling of those life forms in pursuit of profit.
Another2cents (Northern California)
@QED I have to wonder if you've given a thought to the mass - MASS - industrial production of antibiotic-fed pork and beef, chickens - on the factory farms here in the country we live in where COVID-19 might not be such a threat if there weren't so many suffering chronic disease because of our "if it's loaded up with sugar, transfats and salts and it's cheap, eat it, then eat some more of it and subsidize it" culture.
AT (Idaho)
I’ve been a serial nature show watcher for years, long before quarantines made it popular. The “murder hornets” were bound to show up sooner or later. Maybe they’ll cancel out the “killer bees”? The real problem is invasive species in general. From pythons in Florida to Russian olive tree and cheat grass in the south west to lion fish in the Caribbean we are, thru stupidity, helping destroy whats left of the North American environment by directly or inadvertently introducing these organisms here. The exotic pet trade and landscaping have altered, often forever, the environment of this continent. We should spare no expense to keep more out and to try to get rid of the ones we have now. Our amateurish environmental meddling has created a nightmare.
Steve (Maryland)
I prefer slugs fried with garlic.
T. Lum (Ground zero)
New York Times, I think you just solved this pest problem. As the world knows, Americans will ingest anything if they think it makes them high. Soon, if not already, these are being captured and ground into a powder for snorting or injecting. For those not relishing the consumption of insects, I would say that we as primates are closer in species to the cow or hog than to the insect and eating these creatures is far sustainable and less disease free than producing cattle and hogs and chickens. And No Bones!
Len (Pennsylvania)
Ants, grasshoppers, bats, murder hornets. I guess with enough garlic anything is edible. But for this Italian, I'll stick to pasta thank you very much.
Virginia (Saginaw, MI)
“They still eat them. They say it makes them potent." I'm so tired of hearing this. But it will never go away. I hope this wasp leaves North America, though.
Jay Kelly (Tasmania)
@Virginia The average age of the people of Japan is increasing faster than any other country because the birthrate has been below replacement level for decades. So much for the aphrodisiac effect of eating large wasps.
Nick (San Francisco)
I would try them, but in the alcohol drink, so even if they had some virus, it would be killed. I do have a question if, this is a new problem, if a nest is found, and destroyed including the queen. Would surviving workers try to find another active nest or just cluster around the old nest and die.
John Edelmann (Arlington, VA)
@Nick For goodness sake, we don't have to eat everything that moves on this planet!
Kuri (SoCal)
I've spent time living in Chubu. I've never heard of suzumebachi being eaten, most Japanese I know would balk at these "delicacies."
William (Chicago)
In keeping with the theme of ending barbaric practices of eating live and exotic animal parts (the theoretical cause of COVID 19), let’s make this bee eating habit go away.
Mickela (NYC)
@William those hornets are probably less dangerous to eat than our factory farmed meat.
Peanut Butter (Boston)
@William I am sure those whom have been stung and died from its consequences would beg to differ.
Josh Wilson (Kobe)
I got stung by one of these two years ago. I was taking out my cardboard recycling and didn't notice they'd built a nest behind (and out of) it. I'm originally from the countryside, where wasp stings were just part of summer and at first the sting hurt like a regular wasp sting. No big deal, I thought, as the family and I left for our weekend getaway in the countryside. Twelve hours later (after the country clinics had closed), my entire hand, from wrist to second knuckles, swelled up like a balloon and itched so badly I had to soak my hand in a bucket of ice water all night.
Greendog (not far enough)
I remember the 'africanized bee' psychodrama 20ish years ago. Nice way to entertain ourselves, waiting for the main course, climate change. Against this one, no vaccine, no wall, no air conditioner, no task force, no trillions dollars plan, no prayers, no space X, no happy ending. Humankind, it was - sometimes - nice while it lasted.
Kay (USA)
I am originally from Chubu region in Japan and lived there for 30 years, and No, I have never heard of or seen anybody who eats bees or insects. NO NO NO. This article gives a wrong impression of Japan to anyone who are not familiar with the culture. Please do not pick a few strange group of people and talk as if it is shared with ordinary people living there.
danivers (Detroit, MI)
Eating giant hornets ranks third on my list of last-resort options, right behind vegetarianism and starvation. ;-)
Susan StoHelit (San Diego)
Unfortunately - not enough of a delicacy for them to become extinct. Maybe if it was rumored to be an aphrodisiac or natural remedy to replace vaccines.
Hiro (LA)
I don't know why these kinds of articles are printed. The practice of eating hornets or marinating them in alcohol drinks is very rare. Maybe a parallel would be eating squirrel brains here in the U.S. Sensationalism at its worst.
Mary (SF Bay Area)
@Hiro Glad you pointed this out. I usually am better at noticing it. The media, in almost every instance, sensationalizes their stories. They take a story and exaggerate it to make it more appealing to the masses who eat it up without thinking. We have to learn to read every article and listen to every news report critically and do our own cross research.
Bob Hurock (Canada)
great article and videos! Reality is weirder than fiction.
Yukone (Japan)
I bet I came on the 3/11 tsunami waste. It wasn’t noticed until recently.
Ken Griffin (Boston)
In response to folks below making comments on the eating habits of other countries: Insects do not carry respiratory viruses, so you can stop blaming Japan for that, at least. Do you eat shellfish? Why do you think eating an insect is more repugnant? Because of habit and culture, yes? Regard the raw oyster on the half shell. It looks like a shell full of snot. Regard the Maine lobster. Why is a lobster or crab less hideous than a giant wasp? Habit, culture, taste.
Bruno (Italy)
Ken, I agree with you: I enjoy raw oysters, and for sure - if I have the chance - I will try the fried crunchy tasty killer hornets too. Less steaks, more Wendy surrogated burgers, for a better Planet environment.
Moehoward (The Final Prophet)
@Ken Griffin Shellfish are chewy muscle. Insects, despite any "crunch," consist of puss-like mush. So yea, until insects get to be the size of lobsters and crabs, and develop solid interiors, they will remain repugnant.
Peanut Butter (Boston)
@Ken Griffin That's right, and for some people who are reading this column and may have forgotten, lobsters were once considered cockroaches of the sea and it was left to servants, migrants and even cats. My how times have changed.
Marilyn (USA)
The 'Murder Hornet' is the insect version of human. That's what I think, anyway. Sometimes I wonder if someday a four foot version of the thing will crawl out of the ground by the zillions, thereby usurping our place as top predator, as they fly off with our dying stung selves to leave their eggs in our carcasses. So there, imagine that for awhile.
Andre Welling (Germany)
@Marilyn They made a Hollywood movie from that imagination, it was called "Alien" (but from predatory wasps who unlike hornets do the egg-injecting thing, and not with dying prey, but with properly paralyzed victims that can then experience the rise of the "new Flesh" inside..).
susan (nyc)
Since these hormets are edible maybe Wendy's should consider adding them to their menu to compensate for the beef shortage they are experiencing.
Merlin (NYC)
There's the solution to our problem. Monetize them and we will either render them extinct in the USA or replace bee keeping with hornet keeping.
Bruno (Italy)
Very “tasty” tale, Ben. When I was a boy it happened to me, more than once, to chew a chunk of honeycomb, with inside one or two pupae. It tasted great anyway, even when I realized that the chewed blob of beeswax had some whitish traces left. Being a proud assistant bee-keeper to my father, who had such a beautiful hobby, I didn’t make a big deal of it. In Italy, killer hornets are present in North-West Regions of Liguria and Tuscany. And being the Italian bees much appreciated, here and abroad, for their mild behaviour, their arrival could be quite a danger; nor is expected Italians leaving their culinary traditions to go straight away to prepare Lasagne with such specimens, who, remind me of the lethal USAF A-10 Warthog jet aircraft. Now, as some of your previous commentators have mentioned the Coronavirus (it’s an unavoidable topic), I add here a link of a well written and detailed article about the origin of Covid-19 plague. To sum-up, the genome's many mutations of the 4 main virus strains are very old (from 10 to 20 years). And New York got the most noxious variant: it's 270 times more aggressive. And of course, no scientific proof of it being concocted in a Wuhan lab or in China: someone should translate the paper and send it to Potus D. J. Trump. We know that does not read FBI reports, but this could change his stance: https://www.corriere.it/cronache/20_aprile_26/coronavirus-prove-definitive-contro-teoria-laboratorio-7887264c-86f2-11ea-9b77-4fc0668b38e0.shtml
Susan (Marfa, Texas)
@Bruno I would have liked to read your article, but alas I do not speak Italian even though I took one year of it in high school......
Kenneth Brady (Staten Island)
A photograph of the "Lacquered brown hives" would have been an excellent addition to this wonderful piece.
Joseph Ross Mayhew (Timberlea, Nova Scotia)
This is the type of threat that a science and fact-phobic regime like the Trump junta will almost NEVER manage to protect it's country's citizens from: most likely nobody in the White House is even aware of the problem, and the very serious hazard to represents (devastation of native bee populations in particular: without the pollination services provided by bees, many areas would experience a large decline in certain vital crops). The threat that invasive species represents, requires a) A well-oiled, adequately-funded prevention and detection service operating on a national level, b) immediate and vigorous response on local, regional and even national levels when a potentially dangerous invasive species is detected (This can't be handled efficiently on a state by state basis), and c) treaties and other forms of international cooperation, aimed at preventing invasive species from gaining a foothold on the continent. One more reason to elect a government that actually believes in something other than "alternate" facts, in November!!
Aaron (Orange County, CA)
This is definitely an "old timer" country practice. While living there for 5 years- I drank the booze but never ate the bug. I'm sure it tastes better than the fermented squid I ate .. mama mia I can taste it now 20 years later.
HayashiRice (Rural Japan)
No. Nobody eats suzumebachi. I fail to see how every news site can end up exociticing Japan. I’d expect this of BBC.
Louise (Purcell, Oklahoma)
Neighbor described his dealings with two huge, aggressive hornets caught in his skylight. We took to the internet and found information about this threat. Sounds like the same hornet he described. We are in Oklahoma south of OKC. May 5th. We reported the potential siting.
TTom (NJ)
If I had to choose between catching the Corona virus and getting stung by this bee, I'd choose the virus hands down.
John Edelmann (Arlington, VA)
@TTom how terrible to read when we families who have died from COVID 19. Do Americans care about anything or anyone. Disgusting and if meant to be funny, it's not.
John C (Milton PA)
Please stop using the term "Murder Hornets." We have other wasps in the US that are larger than these and have been here for years. Check with your cooperative extension office to see just how overblown your descriptions are.
FlipFlop (Cascadia)
@John C That may be case where you are, but not here in the Pacific Northwest. Check out the chart the Washington State Dept. of Agriculture put on its Facebook page.
Zen Cat (Massachusetts)
@John C The Asian giant hornet is so named because it is the world’s largest hornet. https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Vespa_mandarinia/
Pam (Woodland, CA)
@Zen Cat Great article. Thank you for sharing it.
Michele (Syracuse NY)
As to "terrorizing the honeybees of Washington state," the Entomology Facebook page (which has thousands of international members, including many professional scientists), has this to say: "Some poorly-worded media reports about Asian Giant Hornets have triggered a veritable avalanche of nonsense online, but I can help set the record straight. One colony was found and exterminated in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in September of 2019, with a few sightings associated. One wasp originally believed to be from that colony was found - dead - on the US side of the border near Nanaimo in December (apparently genetic tests completed within the last month suggest it was from a different colony, though it's still suspiciously close, within 50 miles). Right now, all the authorities are doing is asking people to keep their eyes peeled JUST IN CASE there were queens that escaped the destruction of the Nanaimo nest, and established their own nests nearby. I was one of the authorities brought in to consult on this case, and to my knowledge there have not been any sightings in 2020 that would suggest the eradication attempt was unsuccessful. Put bluntly, as far as we know, there are no Asian Giant Hornets alive in either the US or Canada as of 2020, and if there are, then they would be in the immediate vicinity of Vancouver Island (about a 50 mile radius or so). Please feel free to pass my comment along to anyone else trying to make sense of these confusingly-worded media pieces."
Mark (La Canada, CA)
@Michele Thanks for the detail. Curious how this story has existed since September, yet news media chooses now as the time time go to print on it.
MC (WA)
@Michele Well, either a trusted friend in Seattle is lying or completely mistaken - or it has made its way further down the coast. But a hornet that sized would be hard to mistake for an ordinary wasp, or even an ordinary hornet. I asked her a few days ago to contact WSU entymology to let them know...
rixax (Toronto)
@Michele Thanks for this information. The media need a certain thrust to excite the public and keep readers tantalized. But hey, vigilance is a good thing. Usually, if there's one, there are more.
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
Snacking on "murderous hornets". -- In one of his historical samurai films, Mifune Toshiro picks with chopsticks the flies on his kimono and on the rice in a bowl. Hornets are bigger than domestic flies, and they should be easier to pick for the gourmets of this refined taste, even if bizarre by Occidental standards.
t bo (new york)
@Tuvw Xyz More impressively, he picked the flies out of the air. Not to eat - just to show off.....
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