The world’s biggest hornet is wreaking havoc in northwestern China, where 42 people have died after being swarmed and stung in Shaanxi Province. Authorities in northern China are struggling to control a spate of attacks by aggressive hornets that has now killed 42 people and injured at least 1,640.
Residents in the cities of Ankang, Hanzhong and Shangluo in Shaanxi province have been hardest hit, with 206 people still in hospitals for treatment. Of those, 37 are said to be in critical condition.
At 1.5 to 2 inches (4 to 5 centimeters) long, the giant hornets are found across many parts of East and Southeast Asia and are especially well known in Japan. They’re among the more dangerous venomous insects of their type, though others, like Africanized bees and yellow jackets, can cause similar problems.
Huang Rongyao, an insect expert with the Forestry Bureau of Ankang City, told Xinhua that local vegetation growth has increased hornet habitat, and that two months of hot weather have made the insects much more active. The pain of the Asian Giant Hornet is described as a hot nail piercing the skin and lasts about 4 hours with instant swelling.
The Chinese health ministry has ordered local authorities to exterminate the hornet hives in densely populated areas. Local officials have issued fire departments with special protective suits and pesticides and say that hundreds of hives have already been destroyed. A team of medical experts from Shanghai has also been deployed to oversee and provide treatment to victims.