The death toll from an unusual spate of hornet attacks in central China
has reached 41 people, authorities said.
The Shaanxi provincial government said Wednesday the attacks had plagued not only the city of Ankang, where 19 died, as reported by the official Xinhua News Agency, but had killed 22 others in two adjacent cities.
All told, 1,600 people have been injured, and 37 of them are in critical or serious condition in hospitals, according to The Associated Press
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The provincial government says it has mobilized a special medic team and trained more medical personnel to treat victims.
It says hornets mate and migrate in September and October when they are most aggressive in behavior. Local officials have also said weather changes may have contributed to the ferocity of attacks.
Authorities are warning residents to stay out of open fields and woooded areas to avoid contact with the Asian giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia) — the world’s largest hornet species with a 3-inch wingspan, a 2-inch body, and a quarter-inch-long stinger that delivers venom that contains a potent neurotoxin.
A man who was stung this week while harvesting rice said the hornets were relentless.
"I ran and shouted for help, but the hornets chased me about 200 meters, and stung me for more than 3 minutes," Chen Changlin recounted to the state-run China Youth Daily.
Chen said the hornets attacked him after swarming a woman and child who ran to him for help. They later died from their stings.
Outrunning the hornets is not an option as they can travel up to 25 mph and fly more than 60 miles daily.
Earlier this month, 23 children were stung in their heads, necks, hands and feet.
The Asian killer hornets “are formidable killers” when it comes to attacking other insects, according to the nonprofit Honeybee Conservancy.
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The attacks are blamed on several factors, including the hot weather, which creates an a perfect environment for breeding and development of rural areas, which the hornets consider their territory.
The Ankang city government has announced it will invest more in regional hornet control and it has formed a 24-hour emergency hornet response team.
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