Deadly Chinese hornet attacks

More than 40 people have been killed and and 1,640 people seriously injured by a deadly attack of giant, vicious hornets in the Shaanxi province of central China.

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What is the giant Asian hornet?

The giant Asian hornet, or Vespa mandarina, is the world's largest hornet and is native to tropical Eastern Asia. Intensively predatory, it is the top of the insect food chain, and hunts other species of hornets as well as bees.

The giant Asian hornet is the top of the insect food chain, and hunts bees for their honey. Credit: Gary Alpertat

It grows to 5cm long, and has a 6mm sting containing a venom with eight different chemicals, each with a specific purpose. These range from tissue degeneration and breathing difficulties, to making the sting more painful or attracting other hornets to swarm the victim.

Medically, the venom destroys red blood cells and can cause anaphylactic shock, renal failure and multiple organ failure.

Fatalities are normally caused by allergic reaction, often from multiple stings.

Britain on 'high alert' for arrival of Asian hornet

Britain is currently on "high alert" for the invasion of the Asian hornet, the Guardian reports.

The Asian hornet, Vespa velutina, is not the same as giant Asian hornet, the Vespa mandarina, that authorities in China are blaming for the deadly attacks.

Writing in The Guardian, Professor Stephen J Martin from the University of Salford said that the killer hornets could be a result of milder temperatures:

The reasons for this are numerous, but a prolonged period of warm weather in spring and autumn ensures an abundant food supply allowing colonies to grow to large sizes.

More than 99% of queens normally die over winter and spring, so small variations in this mortality rate can lead to massive differences in the numbers of nests each year.

So given the opportunity, a hornet population has a massive potential to expand rapidly, which has happened recently with the accidental introduction of the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) to France and Korea.

Vespa velutina was accidentally introduced to France in 2003, where it has been responsible for a handful of deaths, and it has since spread to Spain, Portugal and Belgium.

Currently Britain is on high alert for its inevitable arrival.

"High alert" means that authorities are keen for people to keep an eye out for the insects, as they could threaten our bees, not that a swarm is expected to land on our shores soon.

Read: 42 people killed by swarm of deadly hornets in China


Firefighters burn out deadly hornet's nests in China

The hornet's nests are being blasted by firefighters. Credit: RTV

Firefighters in China have been working to find and destroy hornet's nests, as a deadly swarm of the insect claimed the lives of 42 people in the fter a deadly swarm of the insect killedas more than 40 people in the Shaanxi region.

Emergency services have been working to locate the nests of the deadly bugs. Credit: RTV

The ferocity of the attacks have surprised local authorities and more than a thousand people are being treated in hospitals for their injuries.

The nests are being set alight, when they can be located. Credit: RTV

Victims have been left with large, deep craters on their skin, and authorities say a further 37 people are in a critical condition in hospital.

Firefighters blast the nest with flame throwers. Credit: RTV
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