NPR logo 'Murdersquishing' Them To Death: How Little Bees Take On Enormous Hornets

'Murdersquishing' Them To Death: How Little Bees Take On Enormous Hornets

I know, I know. You have Putin to worry about, ISIS to worry about, Britain's near breaking, Washington's broken, and the globe keeps getting warmer — so why bring up Japanese giant hornets? You have worries enough. But I can't help myself. I've got to mention these hornets because, as bad as they are — and they are very, very bad ...

Japanese giant hornet vs. European honeybees.
Courtesy of Matt Inman

... this story has a happy ending.

Hornets From Hell

Japanese giant hornets have large yellow heads, enormous eyes, and they eat bees. "Eat" is too polite. They grab European honeybees, rip off their heads, tear off limbs, throw those parts away and take the big, juicy middle piece (the thorax) back to their kids (the larvae). They are unstoppable. A single hornet, you are about to learn, can kill 40 European honeybees a minute.

European bees, being new to Japan (brought in by cultivators), have evolved no defenses. They haven't had time. But there's a second group of bees — the locals, the Japanese honeybees — who have found a way. It's precise, orchestral and deadly.

How Bees Fight Back

Matt Inman, who writes and draws a wonderful blog called The Oatmeal, bumped into these hornets — literally — while running through a forest in Japan. Being curious, he read up on them, and in his new book, The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances, he describes how a crowd of little Japanese bees gets revenge using what Matt happily calls a "Steamy Hot Murdersquish":

A totally unnecessary digression about Japanese giant hornets by The Oatmeal.
Courtesy of Matt Inman
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Courtesy of Matt Inman
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Courtesy of Matt Inman
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Courtesy of Matt Inman

It is. Very neat.

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