The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) has killed dozens of people in China and injured more than 1,500 with their incredibly powerful venomous sting.
Its venom is capable of destroying red blood cells, which results in kidney failure and death, explained Justin O. Schmidt, an entomologist at the Southwest Biological Institute in Tucson, Arizona. “But perhaps a bigger problem than the toxicity of the venom is allergy,” he says.
According to CNN, one sting can trigger a deadly anaphylactic reaction, causing cardiac arrest or airway closure.
“It’s very difficult to prevent the attacks because hornet nests are usually in hidden sites,” says Shunichi Makino, director general of the Hokkaido Research Center for Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute. Makino, who specializes in entomology, warned that the sting from an Asian giant hornet was severe compared with those of other insects. “The venom of an Asian giant hornet is very special compared with other hornets or yellow jackets,” says Makino. “The neurotoxin — especially to mammals including humans — it’s a special brand of venom.”
The local government reports that since last year these attacks have killed more than 42 people and wounded around 1,675 in three cities in Shaanxi province.
Vespa mandarinia are found throughout East and Southeast Asia, in countries such as Nepal, India, China and Korea. And they are gigantic. If you’re afraid of the everyday wasp, you wouldn’t want to come face to face with one of these insects.
Roughly the size of a human thumb, the giant hornet measures about 1.4 to 1.5 inches in length, and the queens are even bigger. An animal database at the University of Michigan describes how it uses its black tooth for burrowing and beheading its prey.
Victims of the hornet’s deadly sting can often be seen with bullet hole sized wounds all over their bodies.