Landlocked Gifu prefecture is well known for insect delicacies from soy sauce boiled locusts to the more evil hornet larvae.
Held every year on Culture day (文化の日 Bunka no Hi) the 3rd of November in the small mountain city of Ena this festival attracts over 100 hornet-keepers who bring their boxed hornet nests to be weighed and sold to the public. On TV it’s plugged as Japan’s Most Dangerous Festival（日本一危険祭り Nihon Ichi Kiken Matsuri）, The chances of getting stung are fairly high (as I did) , But in reality it’s not that dangerous unless you are allergic to bees.
The festival starts at 10:00 and runs for around three hours. Festival food like venison and wild boar sausages, sticky rice goheibo mochi on a flat stick and dipped in an adult black hornet sauce are available if you get hungry and can endure the forty minute wait.
If you are a beekeeper or have no problem with little flying insects buzzing around your head, I highly recommend this festival. Just remember to bring your beekeeper’s suit if you want to go in the hornet tent. If you have asthma or hate smoke, don’t even think about the tent, the smoke bombs used are rather obnoxious.
Campgrounds and a hot spring (Onsen) are located nearby if you want to rough it. The Onsen was 600 yen and a refreshing break from the buzzing black hornets.
The night before I decided to stay on the outskirts of Toyota city at a reasonably priced hotel and take a sixty-minute drive to the festival in the morning.
Last year my friend’s beehives were ravaged by hornets, so whenever I have the chance I like to check on them for him during hornet season.
Now, This year’s weather has been pretty much disastrous (lucky us) for the hornets on Awaji Island, torrential rain in spring to hinder the nest building followed by a couple of huge typhoons in late summer which drove the final nail into the coffin for the underground dwelling species. As for the hornets who build up high and dry, well…. Even that practice was no match against the tree uprooting wind and the bucket loads of endless rain
The Japanese giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica) is called ōsuzumebachi 大雀蜂 which is literally “great sparrow bee”.
The Japanese yellow hornet (Vespa simillima xanthoptera) kiiro suzumebacho (キイロスズメバチ) the English translation is the same as the Japanese name.
Last year around April the owner of the land my Ayuya apiary lives on decided to kick me off her land. What sucks sorry disappoints me the most is the time I lost developing the apiary, money aside I probably lost close to 1,000 hours of work over three years and only got to harvest one hive.
In 2016 I was lucky enough to overwinter six hives which were due to be harvested the early summer of 2017, But because I was kicked out I needed to move them to a new apiary. Sadly three of the hives did not take to the new area, and two were stolen, yes stolen – seriously! – from the new location.
CLEANING UP! What a BITCH! The job of cleaning up that is, not the land owner 🙂
Man I am lucky to have a fellow beekeeper friend who has a excavator.
Not really the kind of pictures I want to post to this page. But as I do like to be transparent with my beekeeping I thought I would show you what takes 10% to 20% percent of my hives each year…… Wax moth larva, A moth !?! … seriously! A moth can wipe out a colony of bees…it’s moth.
Whinging aside this normally only happens if the hive is weak but I have seen a strong colony go down from wax moths after an onslaught of attacks from giant hornets, those hornets never made it into the hive they just laid siege to it not letting the bees leave.
Catch a spring swarm generally the only way to increase your Japanese honey bee colonies . Hive splitting, requeening are just something you just really won’t hear Japanese beeks talking about.
For the past four years I have been using the yellow margin orchid which releases 3-Hydroxyoctanoic acid to signal Japanese honey bees. I honestly have know idea why it does this, or what benefits the orchid gets and getting the orchid to flower when I want it to is always a major headache. With my painkillers running low I have decided to purchase artificial traps this year and see how they work.
Bees on Awaji island must be thankfull for the abundant supply naturally growing camellia species here during the winter months. Around my apiaries I am blessed to have the hills littered with Yabu Tsubaki (Camellia japonica) and the apiaries closer to civilization Sasanqua seems to be dominant species. If you ever have trouble telling which is which, just wait until the flower drops. If it drops petal by petal it’s a sasanqua and if the whole flower drops them it’s a camellia.