The hornets of your nightmares: Swarms of massive insects kill more than 40 and injure 1,600 in China
- At least 37 patients are in a critical or serious condition in hospitals
- Many survivors are now nursing bullet-sized wounds
- 'The more you run, the more they chase you' victims say
- Species are four times the size of British honeybees
05:53 EST, 3 October 2013
03:30 EST, 4 October 2013
Swarms of deadly hornets have killed more than 40 people and injured more than 1,600 in northern China.
At least 37 patients are in a critical or serious condition in hospitals, according to Shaanxi provincial government.
Victims of the attack have been left with deep, dark craters in their skin the size of bullet wounds.
Over the past three months the cities of Angkang, Hanzhong and Shangluo have been worst affected. The Chinese term for hornets is 'hu feng' and local experts believe the culprit is the Asian giant hornet or Vespa mandarinia, which grows up to 5cm long with a 6mm sting.
The insects' highly toxic stings can lead to anaphylactic shock and renal failure.
One victim told local media that 'the
more you run, the more they want to chase you' and some victims
described being chased about 200 metres (656 feet) by the deadly
Authorities have mobilised a special medic team and trained more medical personnel to treat victims.
An Ankang official told Xinhua that firefighters have been removing hornet nests.
The provincial government said hornets are most aggressive in behaviour when they mate and migrate in September and October.
The dry and warm weather this year has contributed to the ferocity of attacks.
One of the victims, named only as Mu, said she has spent two months in a hospital undergoing 13 dialysis treatments.
She has 200 stitches, but still can not move her legs.
She told Xinhua, the Chinese state-run news agency: 'The hornets were horrifying'.
'They hit right at my head and covered my legs. All of a
sudden I was stung and I couldn't move.
'Even now, my legs are covered with sting holes.'
of the deaths are due to allergies to the venom, said Shunichi Makino,
director general of the Hokkaido Research Centre for Forestry and Forest
Products Research Institute, told
'It's very difficult to prevent the attacks because hornet nests are usually in hidden sites,' he said.
'The venom of an Asian giant hornet is very special compared with other hornets or yellow jackets,' he warned.
'The neurotoxin -- especially to mammals including humans -- it's a special brand of venom.'
Meanwhile fears are growing that giant Asian hornets are headed for Britain.
The species is four times the size of our native honeybees and has decimated the bee population in France.
dark invaders with yellow feet are thought to have arrive in France in a
delivery of Chinese pottery from the Far East in late 2004.
insects have colonised huge swathes of France, spreading along
waterways, and with a few hornets capable of destroying 30,000 bees in a
couple of hours, honey production has plummeted.
It has colonised 39 of France’s 100 administrative departments.
hornets pick on honeybees as they leave their hive until the colony is
so exhausted that the hornets can move in and ransack it.
of Asian hornets hover in front of a beehive, picking off single
honeybees, decapitating them and stripping off their wings and legs
before making off with the 'meat ball' to feed their young.
is a further problem for the British honeybee, which is struggling to
cope with changes in farming and climate and already has one Far Eastern
invader to contend with - the varroa mite, which feeds on the bees and
makes their hives more vulnerable to disease.
And some have been found in the US: