A plague of hornets in China is killing people and eating bees
If you’ve always wanted to visit China, this … this might not be the best time. Thanks to climate change, massive numbers of Asian giant hornets (which are the size of your thumb) have been rolling through Shaanxi Province, eating honeybees, and stinging humans to death. And they could be coming to your area next.
In the hard-hit city of Ankang, the fatality toll has been twice the 2002-2005 average; so far in the province there have been 419 injuries and 28 deaths. And that’s just humans, not honeybees, which the hornets chomp on — well, except in Japan, where the bees have developed a pretty metal defense mechanism.
Japanese honey bees have figured out how to fight back, by cooking hornets. After surrounding a hornet in a spherical formation, Japanese honey bees engage their flight muscles, raising their collective temperature beyond what hornets can withstand.
Bees in Europe can’t do that, though, and guess what? That’s probably where the hornets are heading. A smaller species, the Chinese hornet, has already appeared in France, Spain, Portugal, and Belgium, and experts say Italy and the U.K. are next on the itinerary. So far, the Asian giant hornet hasn’t spread outside Asia, but its population is exploding in China because of the recent average temperature increase of nearly 2 degrees F in a couple of years. That increase is happening everywhere, although not always so fast. There’s no reason the Asian giant hornet wouldn’t want to feast on the tasty beehives of Europe or even North America, and if it does, here’s the sort of thing you could be in for:
Here’s a chilling scene that Chen Changlin, an Ankang farmer, witnessed one evening a few days ago. As he harvested rice on evening, hornets swarmed a woman and child working nearby. When they reached Chen, they stung him for three minutes straight. Chen made it; the other two died. “The more you run, the more they want to chase you,” said another victim, whose kidneys were ravaged by the venom. When he was admitted to the hospital, his urine was the color of soy sauce.
You know, or it won’t leave Asia and everything will be fine, so long as you don’t live in Asia, in which case, uh, sorry. At any rate, let’s all practice huddling around a hornet in a spherical formation and then engaging our flight muscles, OK? It could save your life.
Thank you global warming: Giant hornets are killing dozens in China and eating bees across Europe., Quartz.
Donate now to support our work.