Swarms of Asian giant hornets have killed 42 people and injured more than 1,600 in central China since July, authorities are reporting, and dozens of the injured are in critical condition.
The insects have flown into schools packed with kids and attacked farmworkers tending their fields. Mu Conghi was attacked in Ankang City while working with her millet crop.
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“The hornets were horrifying,” she told the Chinese-run news agency, Xinhua, according to a CNN report.
“The hit right at my head and covered my legs. All of a sudden, I was stung and couldn’t move. Even now, my legs are covered with sting holes.”
Authorities say venom from the sting can cause allergic reactions and organ failure. Mu has undergone 13 dialysis treatments to remove toxins from her body, but still remains hospitalized. Photos of patients, meanwhile, illustrate the deep, dark craters on the skin caused by the stings.
The CNN story noted the attacks have been especially prevelant in the province of Shaanxi.
Dr. Wang Xue, director of the intensive care unit at First Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University and an expert on the hornet sting, was quoted in a government news release that hornets are more aggressive this time of year because it’s the mating season. Hibernation should come around December, government officials say.
Some are saying that a drop in the number of spiders and birds that are natural enemies of the insect could be contributing to the attacks. Experts also note that people can inadvertently disturb secluded hornet hives.
The Japanese refer to Asian giant hornets as “giant sparrow bees”; others simply call them “hornets from hell.” A Japanese entomologist once told National Geographic that a sting “feels like a hot nail” driven into your flesh, according to website GeekQuinox
. The insects are large enough to spread entirely across the palm of an adult hand.
The Daily Mirror reports that the Ankang fire department has removed more than 300 nests
from crowded residential areas since July. The news site said attacks are an annual occurrence, but have become particularly pronounced this year in part due to warmer weather. Between 2002 and 2005, the hornets caused 36 deaths and 715 injuries.
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