"Killer Bees versus Japanese Hornets" would make a good title, and subject, for a horror movie. Two of the largest and most vicious of insects, these creatures have been responsible for many human fatalities. While this movie might never appear at a theater near you, if you live in certain parts of the country, killer bees could be part of your daily reality show.
So-called killer bees are actually Africanized honey bees. Native to Africa, these bees were imported to South America in the 1950s with the idea of crossing them with local bees for honey production increase. Escaped Africanized honey bees made their way north, reaching Texas by 1990 and California by 1995. Although they can't survive in cold climates, they now populate large areas of the American South and Southwest. Because of crossbreeding, Africanized honey bees look like other honey bees but are much larger. Their colonies are much smaller than standard honey bees, and so are their nests. One reason people are so often attacked by killer bees is because they accidentally disturb these small, hidden nest sites.
The Japanese hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica) boasts a 2-inch-long body with a 3-inch wingspan -- approximately 5 times the size of a standard honeybee. Honeybees are among their favorite prey; one hornet can kill 40 bees per minute, according to National Geographic News. As of 2013, there had been no verified sightings of this insect in the United States.
Since their introduction to the New World, killer bees have been responsible for at least 1,000 human deaths, upwards of 50 per year. It isn't that their stings or venom are more potent than standard honey bees, it's that their behavior is different. When a nest is disturbed, the bees go after a person in full force, with far faster reaction times and more aggression. They have been known to chase a person a quarter mile or more. Meanwhile, Japanese hornets deliver an extremely painful sting, as their venom can destroy tissue. Approximately 40 people annually die from Japanese hornet stings, according to National Geographic News.
Eradicating the nests of either of these insects is a task for the professional. Don't try to do it yourself -- it could prove fatal. If you're unlucky enough to stir up a killer bees' nest, run away in a zigzag pattern and find the nearest closed shelter possible -- including a motor vehicle. Japanese hornets stalk their prey in groups, but people aren't their primary targets. If you are visiting Asia and become a hornet victim, seek medical attention immediately.
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Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.