Killer hornets – otherwise known as Vespa mandarinia – are attacking and killing residents of China, reports CNN on Sept. 27. The aggressive hornet, colloquially known as a “yak-killer,” is the world's largest hornet. At two inches in length and a three-inch wingspan, the giant hornet packs a stinger full of potent venom. Twenty-eight people have already lost their lives to killer hornet stings this summer.
China's central Shaanxi province has been hardest hit, as most of the deaths have occurred within the last three months, with close to 600 individuals claiming to have been stung. Many are still recovering in hospitals.
While an individual allergic to bees could die from any resulting sting, the sting from a giant hornet is especially deadly – their venom contains a neurotoxin called mandaratoxin, which in the case of multiple stings, can easily prove to be fatal.
Resident Chen Changlin was attacked while working in the rice fields.
“I ran and shouted for help, but the hornets chased me about 200 meters, and stung me for more than three minutes,” Changlin said.
“The more you run, the more they want to chase you,” said another victim, who was ravaged by the killer bees. CNN reports that the man’s kidneys were overloaded trying to filter out the neurotoxin; his urine was the color of soy sauce.
CNN says the hornets are “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.”