The ‘Murder Hornet’ Is Both A Lethal Threat And A Tasty Delicacy In Japan

'They say it makes them potent,' a man who harvests the insects for consumption said of those who eat them.

diners at a tokyo food stand
Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

'They say it makes them potent,' a man who harvests the insects for consumption said of those who eat them.

The “murder hornet,” as it’s colloquially being called, is an invasive species in the United States, threatening to decimate bee colonies and injure or even kill humans. But in Japan, it’s a tasty local delicacy, eaten in whole, or with its venom added to liquor to give it an extra kick.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the Asian giant hornet has recently been spotted in the U.S., raising fears of the havoc it could wreak on honeybee populations, to say nothing of the misery it could inflict on humans. It’s known to kill dozens per year in parts of Asia, and those who live to tell about its sting — which can penetrate a beekeeper’s protective gear — describe it as like having molten metal injected into the skin.

However, when life gives you lemons, as the old saying goes, make lemonade. Or when life gives you venomous insects, turn them into tasty treats.

As The New York Times reports, in parts of Japan, the murder hornet is considered a delicacy. The insects’ grubs are deep-fried and served with rice, in a dish locally known as hebo-gohan. Adults, which can be two inches long, are fried and served on skewers.

In Tokyo, the delicacy appears on the menu in at least 30 restaurants. When eaten, the residual venom leaves a warm, tingling sensation in the mouth.

Speaking of that venom: it’s also served in a local liquor. The animals are submerged, alive, in a brew known as sochu. As the insect drowns, it releases its venom. When consumed, the liquor numbs the mouth.

Eating the insects is one thing. Hunting them is another. Using a morsel of fish attached to a streamer as bait, hunters chase the hornet once an insect grabs the meal. When they arrive at the nest, they use smoke to stun the bugs, then use shovels and chainsaws to get to the nest and extract their quarry.

Torao Suzuki, 75, is one of the local hunters who chases the bug through the forests. He said that getting stung is one of the hazards of the job, and that he gets stung several dozen times each hunting season.

“It hurts, it swells and it turns red, but that’s about it. I guess I’m immune,” he said.

Suzuki, who himself doesn’t eat the insects, says that there’s another reason, besides the tingling sensation the venom imparts, that the bug is sought-after by some Japanese men.

“They say it makes them potent,” he said.