Tracking Giant Hornets That Have Killed at Least 42 People

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There is no concrete explanation for why the hornets are attacking humans with such ferocity this year. Experts point to urban sprawl as one reason the hornet's natural habitat has been compromised. Hives are now commonly found underground or in buildings. Left alone, the hornets typically don't attack humans. But as humans and hornets live in increasing proximity of one another inadvertent disturbance can ignite a vicious response.

In a statement the government said it is doing its best to save people. At the start of September, an average of 30 to 40 people suffered stings daily. By Oct. 5 that number had dropped to 12, according to government figures. The government has been allocated 2 million RMB (just over $300,000) to hospitals to treat the injured. But many hospitals were not equipped to deal with the influx.

Emergency teams led by the fire department are working nest to nest in an attempt to destroy as many as possible. The government reports that more than 4,000 nests have been destroyed. But it is harder and harder to reach the more remote, rural hives. Accompanying one unit on a response call, the team was forced to trek on foot to the site. In full protective gear they used a massive, jerry-rigged torch to set the hive aflame until it was nothing more than a smoldering, charred remain.

"The hornets that survived have no more home," said one member of the team. "They will die."

But there is no guarantee. This year in particular, a mild winter and several months of hot weather may be behind an increased population. The Fang family of honey bee keepers told ABC News they are seeing many more hornets than before, and they are decimating their livelihood.

Asian Hornets attack honey bees every year in a particularly violent fashion, chewing their victims' flesh into a powerful substance that boosts the hornet's strength. It is common for a swarm of hornets to decimate a honeybee hive with ease.

Fang says he has lost 10 bee boxes this year; far more than in previous seasons. He estimates his loss at 30,000 RMB (just under $5,000) and says it will go higher as he loses money on next year's crop.

His neighbor shows off a wound, an angry, crater-like round hole on his arm. When asked why he doesn't go to a safer village, where he might have relatives, he says, "Where can I go? This is my home. I have nowhere to go."

Officials hope the attacks drop by the end of the month and cease completely by December when the hornets retreat for winter. But next spring Queen Hornets will welcome thousands of new offspring.

As the ABC News team leaves town, word comes that a school has contacted the fire department. A hive has been found on school grounds, and they need help immediately.

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