In This Nation, 'Murder Hornets' Used in Snacks, Drinks, Decor

But don't try what they do in Japan here in the US, scientists warn
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2020 8:27 AM CDT
Are 'Murder Hornets' Terrifying? Yes. Are They Delicious? Yes.
An Asian giant hornet from Japan is seen Monday in Olympia, Wash.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Asian giant hornets (aka "murder hornets") may now be scaring people in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, but while they're just as aggressive and dangerous in Japan, people there don't simply fear them: They eat them. The New York Times notes that Japanese gourmands appreciate the venomous insect for its "numbing crunch," and that dozens of restaurants in Tokyo alone feature it on their menus. The insect's venom is also used as an ingredient in alcoholic drinks. The bugs are drowned in a clear distilled beverage called "shochu," at which point the poison is released. CNET notes the mixture has to be stored for years to dilute the venom. Their nests are also used as home decor: They're coated in lacquer, cut open to reveal the innards, and displayed in foyers and waiting rooms. There's even an annual insect festival that celebrates the enormous wasps.

Ryan Mandelbaum recalls for Gizmodo the time in 2017 he devoured one after a night of drinking. He says he doesn't remember what it tasted like, but the chef who served it to him told the New York Post it tastes like butterless popcorn. Vice reporter Zack Kotzer tried the drink and says it was "ashy in flavor, almost like sipping on charcoal." Adventurous Americans near where the hornets are congregating in the US shouldn't be tempted to catch and sample specimens themselves, however. The Washington State Department of Agriculture says to use "extreme caution" near the insects and not to try to "remove or eradicate" any colonies. A Kyushu University entomologist agrees, if only due to the sheer sight of the terrifying bug. "Americans ... might faint dead away" upon seeing one, he tells the Times. More here on the perils of hunting these hornets down. (More giant hornets stories.)

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