Forty-two people have died and thousands have been injured in a wave of giant hornet attacks in central China. Victims of the bizarre attacks, which began about three months ago, described being chased for hundreds of yards by the creatures and stung as many as 200 times. The giant hornets can grow up to three inches in length and as thick as a human thumb. Their stingers can reach nearly ½ inch in length. In the city of Ankang alone, 18 people have died from the stings which, like America’s “Killer Bees”, are highly toxic and can lead to anaphylactic shock and renal failure (as if you wouldn’t die from sheer terror alone).
Most of the attacks have occurred in the wooded areas of southern Shaanxi in central China and are attributed to the Asian Giant Hornet or Vespa mandarinia. Experts have suggested climate change and warmer temperatures in the area have led to the hornets breeding more easily. China’s average temperature has risen by 2 degrees in the past two years.
The Asian Giant Hornet is a ruthless predator that kills other hornet species, yellow jackets, bees, large insects and mantises – usually by gripping the victim in its mandibles and splitting them in half. It is common for the Asian Giant Hornet to seek out honey bee hives to destroy. It marks the hive with a pheromone in order to attract more Asian Giant Hornets to attack, destroy, and occupy the hive. With their huge size advantage, the hornets typically make short work of the bees, unless the victims are able to eliminate the advance scout before it can summon others. A video by National Geographic has captured such an attack and notes that:
“The giant hornets are found across many parts of East and Southeast Asia and are especially well known in Japan. They’re among the more dangerous venomous insects of their type.”
Lest Americans breathe a sigh of relief, thankful that this is China’s problem and not theirs, we’ll remind them that sightings of Asian Giant Hornets have been recently reported in several states including Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. Europeans fare no better. In August 2009 tourists were warned to stay clear of Asian hornets that were colonizing in France.