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Where Do Japanese Giant Hornets Live?

Japanese giant hornets are one of the largest hornets in the world. They can be as large as a human thumb and females have stingers up to one-fourth of an inch long. As their name suggests, Japanese giant hornets are primarily found on the Japanese islands. But Japanese giant hornets are a subspecies of Asian giant hornets, which can be found throughout Asia.

Asian or Japanese Giant Hornets

The Japanese giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica) is a subspecies of the Asian giant hornet (V. mandarinia). However, since the giant hornet is predominantly found in Japan, both the common and scientific names of these hornets are used interchangeably.

Habitat of Giant Hornets

Asian giant hornets can be found primarily in eastern Asia, as well as southeastern Asia. They do not live in tropical environments. Most of these hornets make their home in forests and low mountains but avoid higher elevations and flat lands. Unfortunately, they also tend to make their homes near agricultural areas, which often make them a threat to Asian farmers. This threat can be particularly dangerous given that hornet nests are typically build in the ground, usually in holes dug by small rodents and animals.

No Safe Distance from Hornet Homes

Asian giant hornets tend to travel far distances in search of prey so simply avoiding their nests is not a guaranteed way to avoid them. The hornets send out workers to locate honeybee nests. When a honeybee colony is located, the worker marks the trail with pheromones so the other hornets can find the way. They may cover many miles in pursuit of these honeybee colonies, which they attack and destroy. Similarly, an encounter with a single hornet can quickly attract a horde because the hornets release a pheromone to "call" for back-up when they feel threatened.

Giant Hornets & Their Dangers to Humans

According to Michigan University's Animal Diversity Web, 30 to 50 people are killed each year by attacks from the Asian giant hornet. In 2013, large numbers of these hornets were found in parts of China and were responsible for more than 40 deaths just between July and October of that year. One Chinese farmer who died accidentally stepped on a hornet nest. The hornets chased him and stung him repeatedly; their venom caused him to have kidney failure.