A rash of attacks by giant hornets have left at least 42 people dead and 1600 injured in the Chinese province of Shaanxi.
These Asian giant hornets, which the Japanese call 'giant sparrow bees', can grow up to 5 centimetres long, with a 6 millimetre long stinger. Japanese entomologist Masato Ono, described their sting to National Geographic, saying that it "feels like a hot nail" being driven into your flesh. The pain of the sting itself is the least of the worries from these hornets, though. The venom they inject after a sting is highly toxic, sending anyone who might be allergic into anaphylactic shock, but even those who aren't allergic can still die from the sting due to kidney failure. They're found throughout eastern Asian and they're especially common in Japan, where they cause between 30-40 deaths a year.
The hornets only attack humans when their nests are disturbed, but according to reports, swarms can quickly overwhelm people. According to the Mirror, one 55 year old woman said that she was stung over 200 times in just a few minutes. She survived, but the attack left her in the hospital for a month. A woman and a child weren't as fortunate, as they were swarmed and killed while harvesting rice, and a man that tried to help them suffered kidney failure after being repeatedly stung by the swarm as it chased him for around 200 metres. One 68-year-old man was apparently stung to death for apparently just being too close to nest when it was blown over by the wind.
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The majority of the attacks in China this year have been in and around the city of Ankang, in the southern part of Shaanxi province, where nearly half of the reported deaths have happened. Attacks have also been reported nearby cities of Hanzhong and Shangluo. According to the Mirror, these hornets have always been a problem in the region, with Ankang police reportedly saying there were 36 deaths and 715 injuries from 2002 to 2005. This year has been much worse, and there's some speculation that it may be due to warmer weather causing them to breed more.
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