Archive for the ‘scary’ Category

Our favorite couple shows their true colors. I just got them done, but soon I will put them in a scary setting. Maybe I’ll have them eat Joe Miller’s brains.


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Japanese Hornets

Are you in the mood to be scared?

Here is information from the worsley school site. The reference is at the bottom of the page.

The Asian, or Japanese hornet is the largest and most fearsome hornet in the world. It can be as big as 45 mm long (that’s almost 2 inches), and its stinger is over 6 mm in length (a quarter of an inch!).

The venom from this hornet contains an enzyme which will dissolve bone and tissue, and can be fatal if the person stung is small, or has an allergic reaction. More than 40 people are killed each year by stings from this hornet. Those who have been stung and lived have described its sting as excrutiatingly painful.

The Asian giant hornet can be found in Eastern Asia, including the mountains of Japan. This hornet is not only large, but looks unusual; its head is orange, and wider in proportion to its body than other hornets. Its wingspan is up to three inches, and it makes a dull low (but loud) sound when flying.

[Refresh this page to hear the sound of the Japanese hornet again]
The queen hornet lays thousands of eggs, which develop into larvae in about a week. Very soon after that, large numbers of hornets leave the nest in search of food … usually other insects. Bees, other types of hornets, and large insects such as praying mantises are all easy prey for the giant hornets, which often hunt in swarms.

Just one of these hornets can kill 40 honey bees in a minute; a few of them can slaughter 30,000 bees within an hour or two, leaving a pile of severed heads and limbs behind. When the hornets attack a bee nest, they are looking for bee larvae, which they carry away to feed to their own young.

The giant hornets feed their young by chewing their victims into a paste that they feed to their offspring.

This paste includes special amino acids; ingested by the larvae (photo at left), this mixture helps them grow into adults with plenty of stamina … Japanese hornets, when hunting, can travel 100 kilometres at speeds of up to 40 km/h.

When it stings its victim (and like all hornets, it can sting again and again; its stinger is barbless), the Japanese hornet injects a venom which contains a mixture of about eight different chemicals. These chemicals do several things; they dissolve tissue, they cause pain, and they release an odor that attracts more hornets. The large concentration of some of these chemicals in the venom makes the hornet’s sting much more painful than that from most other hornets, and the toxic lethal effects from an entire nest of these hornets is larger than most other insects.

When killing other insects, the hornet often uses its large mandibles, rather than its stinger, to crush its prey. Often it will decapitate them with a quick bite. Here is what happens to many European honey bee hives when discovered by these hornets. The first hornet to find the bee nest will leave a scent (a pheromone) to attract more hornets. Then a cloud of the giant hornets arrives, and begins killing the bees, one by one. Just a few hornets can kill all the bees in a hive within a few hours. Then the hornets enter the hive and carry off all the bee larvae, which they chew up and feed to their own larvae.

The native Japanese honey bee, unlike its European cousin, has developed an effective defense against these giant hornet invaders.

When the bees detect the pheromone left by the first hornet, they attack that hornet in a special way. They form a huge ball of bees that completely engulfs the much larger hornet. [See the photo at the left]

By vibrating their muscles, the bees raise the temperature inside this ball to close to 47°C, a temperature which the bees can survive, but the hornet can’t. The high temperature inside the bee ball kills the hornet.

While a few of the bees may be killed by the hornet during this process, most survive, ensuring that the hive will not be attacked and destroyed.

In the photos below, a Japanese hornet (left) and a hornet nest (right).

In the mountain villages of Japan, the huge hornets are part of the villagers’ diet, being eaten deep fried or as a sashimi.

The newest sports drink in Japan contains a synthetic chemical that imitates the chemicals in the giant hornet’s larval saliva; the thought is that the energy boosting capabilities it gives to the hornet might also work for humans.

We have a short video for you to watch. It contains scenes of Japanese hornets attacking a European bee hive and killing the bees. It then shows an attack on Japaneses bees where the bees swarm the hornet and kill it by heat.

The video is just over 1 MB in size, so you may have to wait a few minutes for it to download before you can watch it from the beginning. Open a video window here.



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May I introduce you to the “toe biter”? I met these bugs when I lived along a creek in Arizona. I was told to wear sandals in the water and don’t stand still for extended periods of time. These guys bite HARD.


Here is a description of them. Note that they are in the True Bug family, Hemiptera.  References at the bottom of the post.

Toe biter

Abedus indentatus

Hemiptera: Belostomatidae

Toe biters are large, completely aquatic bugs found in running water.  They can often be found clinging motionless to objects at the bottom of a stream, where they wait for a chance to catch prey.  They feed mostly on aquatic insects, tadpoles, and small fish, rather than toes.  They can fly, but do so mostly at night.  Toe biters have small, inconspicuous antennae; thickened, raptorial front legs; and middle and hind legs fringed with hair for swimming.  They respire using a film of air held to their abdomen by tiny hairs.

In the Spring, male toe biters can often be found with masses of large, pale, brown eggs attached to their backs; this seems to be the place preferred by the females for egg deposition.  While on the back of the male the eggs are given an intermittent flow of water by the rocking motion of the insect; this motion also allows the eggs exposure to air.  Male Toe biters tend to remain in protected areas of the stream to encourage the successful hatching of their embryos.

Another description, including their painful bite.

Bugs of the family Belostomatidae are fierce predators which stalk, capture and feed on aquatic crustaceans, fish and amphibians. They often lie motionless at the bottom of a body of water, attached to various objects, where they wait for prey to come near. They then strike, injecting a powerful digestive saliva with their mandible, and sucking out the liquefied remains. Their bite is considered one of the most painful that can be inflicted by any insect (the Schmidt Sting Pain IndexHymenoptera); the longer the bug is allowed to inject its saliva, the worse the resulting bite, and as the saliva liquefies muscle tissue, it can in rare instances do permanent damage. Adults cannot breathe under water, and must surface periodically for air. Occasionally when encountered by a larger predator, such as a human, they have been known to “play dead” and emit a fluid from their anus. Due to this they are assumed dead by humans only to later “come alive” with painful results.

The interesting thing I heard about toe biters is that they are supposedly aware that a flash flood is coming. Some people studied that characteristic after seeing them leaving the water in advance of a flood. Unfortunately, I can’t find the information on that. I do remember that some think it is just an instinct based on being rained on. In other words, if the toe biter gets rained on, its little bug brain says “flood!” and it climbs out of water. Other theories had to do with vibrations, I think. Somewhere out there in the bug literature is more information about that.

Another interesting tidbit (heh) about toe biters is that they are considered a delicacy in Asia. Yum!











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