The voracious Japanese giant hornet has a quarter-inch stinger that pumps out venom containing an enzyme so strong that it can literally dissolve human tissue. The sting of a giant hornet causes excruciating pain, yet some people are willing to endure a few stings while trying to capture them to make a special kind of shouchuu (Japanese liquor similar to vodka).
A person stung by a Japanese giant hornet who doesn’t receive proper treatment soon thereafter can die from an allergic reaction to the venom. About 40 deaths related to giant hornet stings are recorded every year. But this doesn’t seem to scare fans of shouchuu from risking their lives trying to capture the main ingredient of a bizarre alcoholic drink. It’s a rare concoction that isn’t usually commercially available in shops, but a team of RocketNews24 reporters traveled to Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture in search of a huntsman who catches hornets and leaves them to ferment in alcohol for three years. According to their reports, fermented wasp shouchuu has an unappetizing muddy-brown color and smells a bit like rotting flesh. If you’re wondering about the taste of this unusual drink, it’s apparently a lot like that of regular shouchuu, but with a salty aftertaste that comes from the wasps poison. In conclusion, it looks disgusting, it stinks and it tastes really bad, so why would anyone want to drink this home-made fermented hornet brew? Well, for the health-related benefits, of course. The venom-infused liquor is said to make the skin more beautiful, boost recovery from fatigue and prevent “lifestyle disease” (whatever that is).
In order to make the drink, one first has to catch the hornets. If their nest is built underground, catchers place a net over it and simply rattle the insects so they fly into it. If the nest lies beneath an overhang, a plastic bag is placed over it, and if the hornets are in flight, they’re smacked with a large swatter. Protective gear is mandatory, but sometimes those giant stingers make it through and deliver the pain-inducing venom. To prepare the liquor, a large number of live wasps are placed in a large mason jar, which is then filled with shouchuu. The jar is then sealed and the hornets left to drown in the alcohol. Desperate to escape, they release their venom which gives the drink its signature taste and curative properties. The hornets are left to ferment for a full three years, before the disgusting shouchuu can be consumed. Luckily, the effects of the venom are neutralized by the strong alcohol, so just like Chinese snake wine, it’s safe to drink.
European honeybees are a favorite target of Japanese giant hornets. One of these giant killing machines can kill 40 bees per minute, and just a handful of them can decimate up to 30,000 honeybees in a few hours. Once a hornet scout discovers a bee colony, it marks the location with feromones and soon, a commando arrives to slaughter the smaller powerless insects.
Photos by RocketNews24