Hebo Matsuri – the black hornet festival

Smoking the hornets to sleep

Japan’s most dangerous festival 

YOUは何しに日本へ?

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.

sticky rice goheibo mochi

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.

Festival Information

  • Festival name: Hebo Matsuri ヘボ祭り
  • Date: November 3rd (Culture Day)
  • Location: 3146 Kushihara, Ena-shi, Gifu-ken 509-7831

Gear used

  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • DJI Osmo 2
  • Nikon D5000 with 50mm

Friends hives, Un-friendly have

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

  1. The Japanese giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica) is called ōsuzumebachi 大雀蜂 which is literally “great sparrow bee”.
  2. 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.

Equipment used

Hard

  1. iPhone 7 Plus
  2. Quad lock case
  3. iMac (Retina 5K, 27 inch late 2015)

Soft

  1. Adobe Premiere Pro
  2. Keynote

Catching swarms, Camping out!

Golden Week 2018 consisted of me camping out, catching swarms and playing with my tello. Overall and great golden week

 

Kicked Out!

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.

Just before getting kicked off!

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.

🙁

All complete!

  • Loss of money around JPY400,000 (USD 3,600)
  • Loss of time 1,000 hours
  • Loss of hives 5!
  • Lesson learnt – PRICELESS

Hive death by wax moth

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.

Trap hives set, pheromones a fly

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.

 

Spring is in the air

I think this is the first spring that I have been this ready, ready for the wild Japanese honey bees to swarm.

I have enough hives built for seventy new colonies, seventy… Have I gone crazy? …. Maybe!  I also have enough traps for those seventy and enough places to place the those traps.

Golden week for me is going to be a busy one and I have set a goal of 30 new hives this year.

Now please, nice spring weather please.

Building boxes, boxes, boxes

This year I plan to go big, I let last year slip by and I am not going to let that happen again.

Catching swarms won’t really start until the middle of April, so I right now I am building boxes and weathering them. I still have a hundred odd boxes to make so my time is limited.

 

 

Camellia

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.

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