The Asian giant hornet has been grabbing headlines for months now. Since July of 2013 these creatures have injured over 1,000 people and killed 42 in China. With their huge size (these hornets are roughly as big as a human thumb), deadly venom, aggressiveness and tactics, these hornets seem like a serious threat. Is that the case though, or is it blown out of proportion in the name of headlines and public attention?
How Deadly Are They?
While a body count of 42 people is severe enough, truly understanding the capacity these hornets have to do harm to people is important for judging the situation. These hornets are more aggressive than other insects, often swarming people and attacking en masse to bring down someone much larger than themselves. In addition to their aggressiveness and tactics, they have more venom than smaller hornet varieties. This makes their stings much deadlier, especially with multiple hornets all attacking a single victim. For those who are allergic, swelling can choke off airways. Even those who aren’t allergic to the hornets may suffer from organ failure due to the sheer quantity of the venom that is pumped through their veins.
Are They a Threat?
The world is full of deadly creatures, but not all of them are a real threat to people. These hornets, however, seem to be a genuine problem for humans. They attack other insects, feeding them to their young and wiping out competition in the area. Additionally, these hornets can breed up to 2,000 offspring in a single season, which makes their numbers quite large. This sort of problem can become a huge issue for the people living near them, particularly given that these insects actively invade human areas and attack them. Whether it’s farms, schools, or other areas, these hornets are drawn to sweet smells, alcohol and sweat, but they’re drawn even more by people who try to run away from them.
What’s Being Done About Them?
The Chinese government has dispatched police and volunteers to help eliminate the threats of these hives. Over 700 hives have been removed by these brave men and women, and the equivalent of over a million U.S. dollars has been sent to the areas ravaged by the hornet stings. However, this work could be seen as just a band aid that isn’t addressing the real problem.
There are a huge number of reasons why these hornets’ populations have grown bigger and more aggressive. The climate in the area has grown steadily drier for instance, and these conditions have made it easier for these hornets to grow larger. The march of human progress has also moved people into areas that they didn’t used to be in, which has brought the hornets into conflict with people. Additionally there has been a noted decrease in the hornets’ natural enemies, such as birds and spiders, which has allowed them to grow more unchecked than in the past.
While these hornets are dangerous, and even deadly, that doesn’t mean that people can’t protect themselves. The hives, which are made of gray paper and are roughly the size of basketballs, should be avoided and dealt with only by professionals. People who are too close to these hives, or who react poorly to the presence of hornets, may trigger an attack response from the swarm. Swarms will chase off anything they see as a threat, following people for over 200 meters in many cases. Therefore, avoidance techniques are the best way to stay safe.
Asian giant hornets are certainly something that entomologists will be keeping their eye on. Hopefully, continued efforts to manage the populations will be more effective in the coming months and years.
Morgan is a blogger for Fox Pest Control, an extermination company located in Texas. When Morgan isn’t writing, she enjoys reading and traveling with her family.