Hornets known as Asian giant hornets have killed over dozens of people in China and are responsible for hurting over 1,500 others with their potent deadly sting.
The Asian giant hornet, known in the scientific world as Vespa mandarinia, has venom which annihilates the body’s red blood cells and that in turn might result in kidney failure and death, explained Justin Schmidt, an entomologist located at the Southwest Biological Institute in Arizona.
But an ever bigger worry than the deadliness of the venom is allergy, Schmidt says. Just like with regular bees, some of the population is more sensitive to their sting than others and just one puncture can generate a possibly fatal anaphylactic reaction, if the person has his or her airway blocked or they slip into cardiac arrest.
These giant Asian hornet attacks have been going strong since July. People in three different cities in the Shaanxi province have gotten attacked the most. Among those injured, about 200 are getting treatment in hospitals near there.
To look at the Asian giant hornet, which is the biggest hornet species on Earth, it appears like something out of a horror movie. It looks like a mutant and has a body that is built not to mess with, said Christopher K. Starr, professor of entomology at the University of the West Indies.
These hornets are all over Southeast and East Asia, in such countries such as Japan, Nepal, Korea, India, and of course China. When they are found, one sees just how gargantuan they are.
The giant hornet spreads out to around 1.4 to 1.5 inches (3.5 to 4.0 cm). That is basically the size of an adult human male’s thumb. The queens are even larger, having bodies that can grow longer than 2 inches (5 cm).
The aggressive species feed to their offspring the larvae of other insects and use their jaws to break off the heads and limbs of all the prey they catch.
They have an attraction to the sweat of human beings. They also are drawn to the smells of alcohol, and things that have a sweet taste.
Each season when they breed, the giant hornets have around 1,000 to 2,000 offspring, Schmidt said, and this is average. They will dine on other insects such as honey bees and wasps, beginning organized attacks on the beehives of their targets.
The majority of hornet hives are hid away in isolated places, such as hollow tree or even below the ground.
It is very hard to prevent these kinds of attacks since the giant hornet nests are well hidden said Shunichi Makino, director general of the Hokkaido Research Center in Japan.
During summer and the first of fall, the giant hornets have entered schools that were filled with children and they also swooped down on unsuspecting field workers in China.
One of them was Mu Conghui, who got attacked in Ankang City while tending to her millet crop.
They were terrifying, she explained, the things went right for my head and also my arms and legs. Then all at once I could not move because I was being stung. Even now as I look at my limbs, they are completely covered in large infected sting holes.
Even after two months, 13 dialysis treatments and over 200 stitches have passed, Mu is still in the hospital and cannot move her legs.
This is mainly because the invasion of venom into the human body can cause allergic responses and compound organ failures, which then lead to death. Mu has been receiving the dialysis to help eradicate the poisons out of her body. In photographs, patients showed their deep, dark crater-scars spread all over their weakened bodies, the size and shape of bullets having been ripped into them.
Dr. Wang Xue, who is director of an intensive care unit at First Affiliated Hospital in China and a professional in the studies of the Asian giant hornet, warned in a Chinese government announcement that the hornets would most likely be more aggressive and vigorous during September and October, because this is their breeding time. They will not hibernate until December.
Local authorities have deployed thousands of police officers and locals to destroy the hives. About 710 hives have been removed and at least 7 million yuan which is around $1.1 million in U.S. money is being sent to areas affected by hornets, according to a government press release.
This recent flood of attacks might have been caused by the abnormally dry weather that was in the local region, authorities say. The parched environment makes it better for the hornets to breed. Urban expansion might also be a contributing influence, as humans charge into the hornets’ territories.
So what it breaks down to is that this year has been a good season for the Asian giant hornet population and in turn this becomes a very bad season for the human beings who are unlucky enough to run into the beasts.
The Chinese government has told residents to be sure to wear long sleeved shirts when they are going to be outdoors and never attempt to drive the swarms away or get rid of the beehives.
China is not alone in their ordeal as Japan is used to dealing with the Asian giant hornet too. They report between 30 to 50 deaths each year from just such attacks, according to certain Japanese reports. The reason behind these deaths is mostly due to allergies people come down with when exposed to the venom.
These giants are also damaging to western honeybees. Research done in Japan says that over thousands of honeybee hives are destroyed by the giant hornets every year.
People end up getting themselves in trouble when the giant hornets build a nest and the humans go to disturb it. If this is done, or an individual even just hits a tree that happens to contain a nest, then watch out! The giant hornets may just respond as if the entire beehive is being attacked.
There is even more danger if the person who struck the tree now acts out of sorts to these large hornets. If a nest or hive is ever spotted, it is best to avoid it, Schmidt says. If one of the giants buzzes around, do not go into panic mode by flipping out, screaming, or freaking. Just slowly and calmly walk out of there.
One area of study that has not been investigated too much yet is how many individuals are stung when they are attempting to take a nest down in order to get at the larvae inside to use as fish bait. They also may want to eat it themselves since larvae are not venomous, Schmidt noted. But for the most part, people should leave these nests alone. They are too dangerous.
Even as strong as their sting is, it is not likely Americans will be seeing these hornets in the United States any time in the near future, Schmidt said, or even inside the United Kingdom. To get over to Western Europe, the Asian Giant hornets would have to fly over some very nasty deserts and they are not used to any kind of environment such as that.
Taiwan has given the giant hornet the nick-name “tiger head,” because the bee is sometimes put into an alcoholic drink, Starr explained, the reasoning being that the essence of the great hornet will go in the booze, and when it is drunk, the person will become strong too.
The giants have either a shocking orange color or are black, and are on a rampage of sorts. Schmidt agrees with the assessment, but wanted to know how badly the pain was with the sting. So he found out the old-fashioned way, he allowed himself to get stung.
He said it was a piercing, deep, throbbing pain which even brought on numbing and lasted at least twelve hours. He also stated he was not going to let himself be stung by the Asian giant hornet again. He wants to avoid them if at all possible.
China has been able to stop the risks of being attacked somewhat, here in the past few weeks because of a huge extermination operation. At least as was stated above, it is very unlikely the Asian giant hornet will ever make it to the United States. If it did, it would probably never be able to survive here.
Written by: Kimberly Ruble