The world’s biggest hornet is wreaking havoc in northwestern China where 42 people have died after being swarmed and stung. More than 1,600 others have been injured from stings since the outbreak began in July.
The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is the offending monstrosity. At 1.5 to 2-in. long, the giant hornets are among the more dangerous venomous insects of their type and, like Africanized bees and yellow jackets, they’re the cause of many problems.
While the hornets don’t typically swarm humans in large numbers, they’re well known for their ability to quickly decimate a hive of thousands of honeybees, leaving behind a trail of severed heads and limbs. They routinely fly miles from their nests and use scouts to locate bee colonies. Next they mark it with a special pheromone to attract other hornets to attack, destroy and occupy the hive.
Bees and other insect victims often become fodder for the growth of the hornet hive. Adult workers chew their victims’ flesh into a nutritious paste that feeds larvae, which produces saliva to be consumed by adults who can’t digest solid protein.
For now, there’s no known reason for the hornet’s attack on humans or what factors led to the hornets’ deadly season of human attacks. Research is ongoing.
Source: National Geographic magazine