BEIJING – Swarms of hornets have killed 42 people in northwestern China in recent months as temperatures rise and development drives the insects into the cities, state media warned.
The terrifying attacks started in July, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday, with 1,640 people having been stung. Of those, 206 are being treated in hospital, it quoted the National Health and Family Planning Commission as saying.
Xinhua described the hornets as about as big as an adult thumb.
“With the development of air conditioning, urban landscaping and residential environment, hornets have started to migrate and relocate to cities, which has increased the probability of their hurting people,” Xinhua said.
It also quoted Huang Rongyao — a senior official tasked with pest control in the city of Ankang, which has borne the brunt of the attacks — as attributing the phenomenon to warmer-than-usual temperatures and people themselves.
“Furthermore, hornets are sensitive to bright colors, the smell of human sweat, alcohol, perfume, any specially scented articles and things that are sweet, as well as the running of humans or animals,” Huang said. The Shaanxi Daily has said the attacks were centered on the cities of Ankang, Hanzhong and Shangluo.
Hua Baozhen, a professor of entomology at Northwest Agriculture Forestry University, blamed the attacks mostly on a drop in the hornet’s natural enemies, such as spiders and birds, due to ecological changes.