Skip to main content

Killer hornets sting at least 19 people to death in China, nearly 600 stung

By Ramy Inocencio and Ke Feng
updated 3:24 AM EDT, Fri September 27, 2013
Hornets have stung several hundred people in China, killing at least 19. The Asian killer hornet, which may also be involved, is the world's largest hornet species and injects a powerful neurotoxin with its sting.
Hornets have stung several hundred people in China, killing at least 19. The Asian killer hornet, which may also be involved, is the world's largest hornet species and injects a powerful neurotoxin with its sting.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • At least 19 people have been stung to death by hornets in southern China
  • More than 580 people have been stung in China's southern Shaanxi province
  • The Asian killer hornet, Vespa mandarinia, is world's largest hornet and may be involved
  • Regional hot, dry weather and smell of people may be factors in increased hornet activity

Hong Kong (CNN) -- At least 19 people have been stung to death by hornets -- which may include the world's largest hornet species Vespa mandarinia -- in China's central Shaanxi province in the last three months, according to the city government of Ankang, the apparent epicenter of a recent spate of fatalities and injuries.

A total of 583 people in the area have been stung by hornets since July 1, say city officials. Seventy victims are still recovering in hospitals.

Chen Changlin was hospitalized after being attacked by hornets, while harvesting rice last week.

Hornet's nest the size of a Volkswagen
Park employees attacked by killer bees
Man dies from wasp sting

"I ran and shouted for help, but the hornets chased me about 200 meters, and stung me for more than 3 minutes," he recounted to the state-run China Youth Daily.

Chen said hornets had first swarmed a woman and child working nearby, who then ran towards him. Both later died from the hornets' toxins.

"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, according to local reports.

Earlier this month, 30 people -- including 23 primary school children aged between six and eight years -- were injured in a hornet attack in Guangxi province, south of Shaanxi. Their teacher, Li Zhiqiang, told his students to hide under tables as he tried to drive away the insects before he lost consciousness. The school's headmaster told local media that most of the injured suffered stings to their heads, necks, hands and feet.

Nearly 60 students and teachers were injured in a separate incident in the province at the start of the month, according to state media.

Experts say a number of reasons may have contributed to the apparent increase in hornet activity, including the region's recent hot, dry weather, land development and hornet sensitivity to the smell of people.

The Asian killer hornet, which is suspected in these incidents, are formidable, carnivorous killers, according to the non-profit Honeybee Conservancy. The species feed their young with the larvae of other insects and use their talons and mandibles to sever the limbs and heads of their prey. The hornet's venom sting is a neurotoxin so powerful that it dissolves human tissue, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

This week's latest incidents spurred the Ankang city government to hold an emergency video call addressing local concerns. Vice Mayor Lu Qi said he would increase investment in regional hornet control. Mayor Xu Qifang added the city would establish a 24-hour emergency hornet response team.

Journalist Ramy Inocencio wrote in Hong Kong and Ke Feng contributed to this article from Beijing.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:45 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
updated 7:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
updated 5:26 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
updated 5:54 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
updated 9:16 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT