There are several species of hornet in Japan. This one is Vespa tropica pulchra (hime-suzume-bachi ) and it is said to be the least aggressive and least toxic of the hornets. It is easy to identify because, unlike other hornets, the last segment of the abdomen is black.

Japanese article here.
English article here.

Youtube video (in Japanese) about hunting hornets with a giant vacuum: here.

Vespa tropica pulchraVespa tropica pulchraVespa tropica pulchraVespa tropica pulchra

Hymenoptera: Vespidae
Vespa tropica pulchra
(synonym = Vespa ducalis)


Location: path near Hyoutan Pond (map)


Found another species of hornet (kogata-suzume-bachi) today. This one was hunting around some plants/flowers next to the river. These hornets attack bees/wasps and carry the meat of the thoraxes back to their nests.

Japanese hornets page (in Japanese) = here.

Vespa analisVespa analisVespa analisVespa analis

Hymenoptera: Vespidae
Vespa analis

= kogata-suzume-bachi

Location: Path by river in Munakata (map)

Paper Wasp Nest

We found this beautiful wasps’ nest this morning – in someone’s garden hedge. The kids thought the caps on the cells looked like tiny tennis balls. These are paper wasps (ashinaga-bachi) and they feed their young on chewed-up (= masticated) insects, especially caterpillars, so they are useful to have in the garden. I’ve also read that the wasp grubs produce a nutrient secretion which the adults feed on. Symbiosis between generations!

More information about paper wasps here at Wikipedia.

Polistes rothneyiPolistes rothneyiPolistes rothneyiPolistes rothneyiPolistes rothneyiPolistes rothneyiPolistes rothneyiPolistes rothneyi

Hymenoptera: Vespidae
Polistes rothneyi = ki-ashinaga-bachi (yellow paper wasp)
(literal translation = yellow long-legged wasp)

Location: Yokoyama Village
Google map: here

Catching ants

We gave Aya an “antquarium” for her birthday and she wanted to catch some ants to put in it, so we went into the forest to find some. We found a nest and she collected ten or so ants. Once she put them into the antquarium, they immediately got to work tunneling into the blue gel, which also functions as their food source according to the instructions. Link to supplier here: http://www.beachworld.it/index.php?id=87

We also found a queen, but unfortunately she died before we could put her into the antquarium…

Camponotus japonicusCamponotus japonicusCamponotus japonicusantquariumantquariumantquariumCamponotus japonicus

Insecta: Hymenoptera: Formicidae
Carpenter ant = Camponotus japonicus = Kuro-oo-ari

White-tipped sawfly

This species of sawfly (shimajiro kuro habachi) seems to be pretty common, jumping from leaf to leaf hunting for prey. It is easy to identify with the distinctive white tips to its antennae and a white/yellow spot on its thorax.

Macrophya apicalisMacrophya apicalis

Insecta: Hymenoptera: Symphyta (sawflies) = habachi
Macrophya apicalis = shimajiro kuro habachi

Carpenter ants nuptial flight

These are pretty big ants (around 10mm long). The hole was in sandy soil and opened directly (i.e. without a mound). The nuptial flight was just about to start when I came across the hole, and it was interesting to watch how the workers seemed to be in charge of pushing/pulling out the winged ants (reproductive castes) then shoving them back into the hole again when danger threatened (i.e. the camera flashed).

Camponotus japonicusCamponotus japonicusCamponotus japonicusCamponotus japonicus

Insecta: Hymenoptera: Formicidae
Carpenter ant = Camponotus japonicus = Kuro-oo-ari

Digger Wasp

Adult digger wasps (jigabachi) feed on pollen. They also hunt caterpillars, but they use these as food for their young. The adult female digs a burrow in the sand, catches a caterpillar, which she paralyzes using a special poison, and then she drags it into the burrow and lays a single egg on it. When the egg hatches, the larval wasp feeds on the caterpillar and emerges from its burrow the next year.

Ammophila sabulosa

Insecta: Hymenoptera: Sphecidae
Sand Digger Wasp (jigabachi) = Ammophila sabulosa (22-28mm)

Two species of hornet

This was at night in a forest park near Nogata, called Tsurugi-dake Natural Park (map here), and it’s a great place to find stag beetles (kuwagata) and Japanese rhinoceros beetles (kabuto-mushi).

I found two species of hornet (and lots of other things!) feeding on sap this evening. The larger one is Vespa mandarina (oo-suzume-bachi) and the smaller one is V. tropica pulchra (kogata-suzume-bachi). By the way, the metallic scarab beetles in the picture are Rhomborrhina japonica (kanabun).

Vespa mandarina is known as the Asian Giant Hornet and not only is it the largest hornet, it’s also the most venomous insect in the world (per sting). Lucky for me that this one was more interested in the tree sap than my thumb!

There’s an interesting article about the Asian Giant Hornet on wikipedia.

Hymenoptera: Vespidae
Vespa mandarina japonica = oo-suzume-bachi

Hymenoptera: Vespidae
Vespa tropica pulchra (synonym V. ducalis) = kogata-suzume-bachi

Link here to a page explaining the differences between the two species (in Japanese but with pictures).

Japanese carpenter bee

Walking along a path in Tsurugidake Nature Park (in Kurate, Fukuoka), I was stopped in my tracks by this big male carpenter bee (kumabachi = “bear bee” in Japanese) which kept flying straight towards me and hovering in front of my face. He was being very territorial and was chasing away anything that he spotted (other bees, butterflies). I’ve read that this species will even chase away birds! Apparently the male does not have a sting (although the female does) so the bee is perfectly harmless, but its aggressive behaviour and size (2cm or so) more than make up for the lack of sting! They are called carpenter bees because they make nest holes in wood (usually trees but sometimes in buildings).

I took about 50 or 60 photos of the bee hovering, but it was quite early in the morning so the light wasn’t good enough to get clear shots. Then I caught it in my hat (very easy to do) and managed to get hold of its thorax so I could take a close-up photo.

Xylocopa appendiculataXylocopa appendiculataXylocopa appendiculataXylocopa appendiculata

Hymenoptera: Apocrita: Anthophoridae
Xylocopa appendiculata circumvolans = carpenter bee (kumabachi )