What to know about hornets (Suzumebachi) in Japan

Hornets or yellowjackets, or Suzumebachi スズメバチ in Japanese, are active from spring through autumn in Japan. In September and October, hornets are particularly aggressive while they are in their breeding season. Needless to say, the stings can be horribly painful. Hornets usually live in mountain areas and the nearby towns, but they started to live even in cities recently. If you plan to go for hiking, especially in autumn, you should know how to cope with their stings.

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Hornets in Japan

Hornets are called Suzumebachi in Japanese. In Japan, several kinds of hornets live. Their sizes are between 20mm and 40mm depending on kinds. The one kind of hornets living usually in temperate regions is increasing in number due to global warming.

The character of Suzumebachi is its aggressiveness. They tend to attack and sting anything moving around their nest. Their poisonous stings may cause even death if first aid is not given.

Where do hornets live?

They often nest and live in group at;
- Under trees
- Under roofs or in attics of houses
- Under bridges
- At roots of trees (under the ground)

How do I avoid their attacks?


The best is to stay away from their nests, Do not ever try playing with the nest for fun as it is too dangerous, it will never be a fun after all. When hornets identify enemies near their nest, they make a clicking noise to warn. If you hear the noise, leave the place quietly.

The problem is that the hornet nests in hidden places and you might encounter them when you are on a hiking etc. So, precaution is important and what you can do to cope with their attacks are:

Avoid wearing black clothes

Hornets tend to attack moving-objects in black. It is safer to put on clothes in white or bright colors.

Wear a hat

Those having black hair tend to be their target. (The hat should be not in black.)

Do not wear perfume

Hornets have a keen sense of smell. Strong fragrances can bring on an attack

Wear long sleeves and long trousers

Hornets move quickly and sting quickly. Clothes may be a protector to avoid severe injuries.

Do not make a loud noise

Hornets are sensitive to noise too. They sense the noise and come up to you.

More be careful on the following day after a typhoon is gone

The hornets having lost their nest by typhoon might be hiding around somewhere nearby

What to do when you encounter hornets


Letting the hornets calm down is the most important and;

Try Not to drive them out by hand

This action will make the hornets more aggressive

Do not move. Do not make a big noise

hold still and try not to scream out, though it is really scary.

Try not to run away

Hornets will fly after you running and will never stop the attack. Besides, you cannot run fast on bumpy trails in a mountain, would bring another risk.

What to do when you get a sting


Treat immediately. Quicker is better.

Cleanse the sting with running water

Squeeze poison out of the sting

The poison won’t be squeezed out completely. So, this fast aid has been taken as both should-be and not-should-be, case by case. Using a poison remover is the better way.

Cool the sting down with cold water and put on some antihistamine ointment.

In case of severe injury, call an ambulance immediately (Call 119).

Keep cleansing the sting while waiting for the ambulance.

Ask someone for help by showing the Japanese phrase samples below

I got a hornet sting.
スズメバチに刺されました。

I need a first aid.
応急処置が必要です。

I need to cleanse the sting with water.
水で洗い流す必要があります。

Do you have a poison remover?
毒を除去する器具を持っていますか?

Do you have an ointment for it?
薬をもっていませんか?

Please call an ambulance for me.
救急車を呼んでください。

How do I remove a hornet nest?


Hornets sometimes nest at houses in cities near mountains. The chances are that they have made a nest at your house before you knew it. If you find a nest at your house in the season when hornets are active, ask for a hornet nest removal service. You should try not to remove it by yourself.

If you have to do it by yourself, it is safer to remove the nest when it gets empty. The life span of hornets is one year except for the queen. All of them die in winter and their nest becomes empty. (The queen is still the inside) As the queen begins its activity in spring, the nest removal should be done in late February. You should prepare an insecticide in case some hornets are still alive in the nest.

Hornet larvae, another delicacy


Hornet larvae, Hachi-no-ko in Japanse, have been eaten as a delicacy in some regions of Japan. The hornet larvae used to be a source of protein for people living deep in the mountains. Though this insect food is not so popular, it is getting more attention as a local speciality, or while concerning about food shortages globally.