Murder hornet munchies: The horrifying insect makes a tasty treat

Not only can you eat the nightmarish hornets. They offer a boozy buzz when mixed with shochu alcohol.

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Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
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Asian giant hornets, also called murder hornets, are up to 2 inches long, and can sting their victims multiple times.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

News of insects nicknamed murder hornets invading the US might feel like the plot to a horror film, but maybe you'll feel better knowing the pests make for a tasty snack. 

The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is described as 1.5 inches to 2 inches long with an orange-yellow head and black stripes on its abdomen. The stinger is long enough to poke through protective beekeeper suits, and kills up to 50 people a year in Japan alone.

Yes, the large hornets have been spotted in the Pacific Northwest, most notably Washington State, but that doesn't mean residents of the area are doomed. The Asian giant hornet is apparently considered a delicacy in its native Japan. If you can't beat them, eat them? 

People living in the central Chubu region of Japan so love eating the murder hornets -- as well as wasps and bees -- they throw an edible-wasp festival every year. 

The murder hornets' bodies are light and crunchy, and "leave a warming, tingling sensation when eaten," according to a New York Times piece on Tuesday. It's worth noting that eating insects is nothing new. People have been chowing down on insects for centuries. Even the philosopher Aristotle enjoyed munching on cicada larvae.

The Asian giant hornet larvae are often steamed with rice to make a traditional dish called hebo-gohan -- also called hachinoko gohan. Chefs also place the dead Asian giant hornets (stingers included) on a skewer and grill them over hot coals.

Not only do these large hornets make for an interesting snack, they also add pizzazz to liquor. Live Asian giant hornets (and sometimes wasps) are drowned in a clear distilled beverage called shochu. When the hornets drown, they release their venom into the liquid. 

The mixture is sealed in a container and left to ferment for a few years until the shochu turns a dark amber color. This allows the venom to dilute so it doesn't send any future drinkers to the hospital. 

Mixing the murder hornet shochu in with cocktails creates a buzz, so to speak. A bee-themed bar in Fukuoka, Japan, called Suzumebachi serves the hornet-infused booze to locals and tourists alike. According to one journalist who tried the unusual giant hornet drink, it tasted "ashy in flavor, almost like sipping on charcoal." 

While foodies in Japan might enjoy seeking out murder hornet nests for snacks and cocktails, it's worth noting that the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) doesn't advocate approaching these deadly pests, which were officially spotted in Washington in December.

The WSDA warns to "use extreme caution near Asian giant hornets. The stinger of the Asian giant hornet is longer than that of a honeybee and the venom is more toxic than any local bee or wasp. If you find a colony, do not attempt to remove or eradicate it. Report it to WSDA (or your local state's department of agriculture) immediately."