The Giant Japanese Hornet is an Intense Killer Machine

By Anupum Pant

For the sake of knowing, scientists have given the Japanese Giant hornet a name – Vespa mandarinia japonica – a name normally you need not remember. However, there is a thing you should always remember about them. See the picture of this insect below and remember what it looks like. And if you see it coming towards you while you are holidaying in Japan, just run for for your life. This is the Japanese Giant Hornet:

giant hornet

Yes, this giant hornet is a deadly killer machine. You should fear it because…

Well, first of all they are large and fearsome and have stingers that are more than 6 mm long. They use these to inject a relatively large amount of venom into the target – A kind of venom which attacks the nervous system and damages tissues. The venom is also known to destroy red blood cells, which can result in kidney failure and even death in some cases.

Secondly, just read what Wikipedia says about it…

Thirty to forty people die in Japan every year after having been stung, which makes the Japanese giant hornet the second most lethal animal in Japan after humans (bears kill zero to five people and venomous snakes kill five to ten people each year).

Thirdly, these hornets are known to move around in small groups of 20-30 individuals who manage to kill tens of thousands of bees in their own beehive, and then they steal their young ones. About 30 of these giant hornets can kill 30,000 bees in a single attack. They don’t just kill, they rip the bees apart mercilessly. Watch a video of them ravaging a beehive…

Also remember that it won’t come searching for you to sting you to death, until it senses threat.

Outperforming Humans – Speed

By Anupum Pant

Humans can use tools, communicate, count, make others laugh, socialize and are self aware too. We also have emotions and a pretty good memory. All of the things put into a single creature sure makes the “most advanced” creature we’ve ever known. But if these traits are considered individually, you’ll easily find an animal who beats us at one trait at a time. Today, I wanted to read and write about where humans stand when it comes to speed.

Talk about running speeds and the fastest person ever, Usain Bolt comes to my mind. A bolt indeed. As on date, if I’m not wrong, the world record set by him in the 100m race is 9.58 seconds. To put this human freak show into perspective, the average speed of the Jamaican sprinter in this race comes to about 37 km per hour (23 miles per hour).  And he’s clocked 28 mph somewhere in the race, they say.

In a world full of cars and planes, where distances travelled have become really huge, 28 mph sounds like a speed which does no good in our practical lives. And yet, it takes an Olympic runner to clock that speed. Normally, people run at about, say 10 mph. Damn!
The biological human limit to running speeds is estimated to be about 40 mph.

Quick fact: The fastest human objects ever are Helios 2 (a German probe) clocks about 150,000 mph. Another spacecraft, Juno does about 25 miles in a single second!

Now compare that with a Peregrine Falcon which can make use of the gravity and its perfectly aerodynamic body to travel at a speed of 216 mph (360 kph). But, that’s hardly any work for the animal. It’d the gravity making it fall.

In level flight, the white throated needletail (swift) can fly at speeds more than 100 miles per hour (up to 106). That’s the fastest bird if you do not count gravity assist.

An on land, of course the Cheetah takes the prize with about 70 mph of running speed. But, there’s a catch. If you measure speeds of animals relative to their body sizes, there’s a little blood sucking mite that beats cheetah by a huge margin.

The fastest swimming fish is the sailfish, which can swim and jump for small distances at about 70 mph.

Humans can swim at about 5 miles per hour.

Moving at 35 miles per hour a jack rabbit can travel faster than a human. The patas monkey, the fastest primate, runs at about 35 miles per hour too!

Now these are some animals you probably already know. Soon there’s more to come. In the coming days I wish to do a series on outperforming humans…Maybe I’ll write about endurance next.

Keep reading for more.

Is Cheetah No Longer the Fastest Land Animal?

By Anupum Pant

Read this for the answer to the question above

If you haven’t previously heard of the Betteridge’s law of headlines, also known as the Davis’ law or the journalistic principle, here’s what it says:

Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.

(Of course, you aren’t supposed to take the “law” too seriously.)

Did you see the headline for this article? So, basically you can read no further and still say – No, Cheetah still is the fastest land animal. But if you look deeper, things sure get interesting.

Absolute Speed vs. Relative Speed

To be specific, Cheetah is the fastest land animal because its absolute speed on land is the highest (112 to 120 Km per hour). When you measure absolute speed, you don’t take into account anything other than the speed. The weight or size of the animal doesn’t matter. Here, Cheetah is a clear winner.

But, when you do take into account the body length of an animal and measure the speed in terms of, number of body lengths the animal can cover in a single second, there are number of other animals that beat Cheetah by a huge margin.

Here’s a fact – When running at full speed, cheetahs can cover the length of up to 16 to 20 cheetahs in a single second. That’s pretty fast. The fastest humans on earth can do about 10 – 11 body lengths per second. [Source] Do you know what’s the fastest animal of you measure speed relative to their respective body lengths? Wait for it…

It is a mite. Yes, a tiny little 1-2 mm Californian blood sucker can cover up to 322 body lengths in a single second! Scientists just found out about it. Graphic designers who’ve used elegant cheetah silhouettes to represent speed in their graphics will have to use a tiny blood sucker now? How disappointing!

By the way, 322 body lengths in a single second of a sesame sized animal translates to just about 0.8 km per hour of absolute speed. But, imagine this. If it (the Californian mite) were the size of a human being (which it is not), it would have moved at a whopping 2,100 km per hour. I know the physics of it would have been different in case it were that big. Since it is not, we aren’t even putting in the effort to consider those details at the moment.

In case someone comes searching for the scientific name of this mite, it is called – Paratarsotomus macropalpis (I won’t remember that)

Other land animals “faster” than the Cheetah

  • The Australian tiger beetle held the record before they found out about the tiny mite. The beetle can cover up to 171 body lengths in a single second.
  • The household cockroach is pretty fast too. It does about 50 body lengths in a single second.
  • The ghost crab can run at about 100 body lengths per second.

All of them, much “faster” than the cheetah (in relative speed). And still Cheetah always wins the race because it is absolutely the fastest land animal. Still. Please don’t trust the click bait titles like:

Cheetah beaten to title of fastest animal in the world by tiny Californian mite