Asian Giant Hornets, known colloquially as murder hornets, have popped up a lot in the news as one more shitty thing that 2020 has thrown at us all. They've been terrorizing Washington state and making really good scare-article copy, but they've been around a lot longer than that. They have been killing farmers and hikers in rural Japan.
But the rugged people of Chubu region snack on some of the insects, where they were a readily available source of protein. They're cooked up in a dish called hebo-gohan, where they are either pan-fried or steamed and served over rice. As the insects are cooked on skewers their shells become light and crunch. The venom of the hornets leave a warm, tingling sensation when eaten.
For adventurous drinkers, the murder hornets add an extra spice to cocktails. They're drowned in shochu and they release their poison into the liquor, which gives the booze an extra kick.
The hunt for these creatures is pretty gnarly. They're lured by hunters who tie streamers to a piece of fish. The hunters then chase the hornets back to their nest and smoke them out.
They probably get stung a lot in the process.
While predominantly a rural Japanese thing, more and more young people are integrating bugs into their diet. It's a novelty and bugs are an environmentally friendly source of food. 30 different restaurants in Tokyo serve murder hornets as part of their menu.
Murder hornet liquor has become popular because people believe that the venom increases the drinker's sexual potency.
Takatoshi Ueno, an entomologist at Kyushu University, said he was mystified by the hornet’s appearance on the American West Coast.
“It’s impossible for them to fly over from Asia,” he said, adding that they most likely came over in a shipping container. Even that, though, would be extraordinarily unlikely, he said, given their extreme aggression, which would have almost certainly drawn the attention of a ship’s crew.
“When dealing with invasive species, whether a virus or an insect, it’s the same,” he said. “Moving quickly to completely destroy them is the best. Ultimately, it’s the cheapest and least damaging.”