Giant Asian Hornets - Vespa mandarinia vs. Vespa soror (Vespidae)
In the latter third of the year, the giant Vespid hornets are on the wing foraging for carrion to feed their hives. Even if you don’t see them, you can hear them searching through the canopy and amongst the leaf litter for prey. Once they locate something, the response is swift and ruthless.
In this case, the daddy of them all and the world’s largest hornet, Vespa mandarinia had stumbled across a marginally smaller Vespa soror. Both would have had the same mission, but obviously the large V. mandarinia did not consider the V. soror too much of a risk. They both tumbled out of a tree onto the ground in a buzzing mass, and while I approached and took pictures, the smaller hornet had its head eaten and the rest of its body completely dismembered. In the end, the victor departed with only the thorax of its quarry on board. Potentially, it may have returned for the abdomen. The whole attack and butchering took just over a minute.
Multiple human casualities are reported annually in China from hornet attacks, which has earned them a reputation worthy of caution but probably not a true reflection of reality. I would guess the majority of attacks occur while rural folk are collecting the massive nests. The developing larval and pupal wasps are plucked from their paper cells and sold at market for frying as food and pickling as a traditional medicine. Although intimidating, I have been in very close proximity to many of these large hornets in the wild as individuals, and they either ignore you or display only a fleeting curiosity, before going on their way. As with most things, I am sure if I yelled hysterically and flailed my arms about, the response might be very different. I would NEVER knowingly approach a nest.
My experience has been that the smaller species such as Vespa velutina are far more aggressive away from the hive and will pester and pursue you, and may, in fact, be the culprits in many adverse hornet-human encounters. Unfortunately, the “burn it with fire” philosophy of the Chinese layman literally applies in all cases irrespective of species or intentions (as it does pretty much everywhere in the world).
by Sinobug (itchydogimages) on Flickr.
Pu'er, Yunnan, China
See more Chinese Hymenopterans (wasps, hornets, bees, ants and sawflies) on my Flickr site HERE…..