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Killer Hornets Leave at least 28 Dead in China

Sep 27, 2013 12:20 PM EDT

Hornet attacks in China have led to the death of at least 28 people and the injury of hundreds more, according to the South China Morning Post.

The majority of the hornet attacks have occurred over the past three months in rural areas of Shaanxi province in southern China.

A 55-year-old woman told a provincial newspaper that she was stung more than 200 times, the Morning Post reported, adding that another sting victim was hospitalized for acute renal failure after hornets reportedly chased him and stung him on the head and legs.

Asian giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia) are suspected in the attack. Not only are Asian giants the world's largest hornet species, they have highly toxic stings. Multiple stings to a human victim could result in death if gone untreated. The insect is a vicious predator of insects, including honey bees. The hornets have been known to invade honey bee colonies, killing the bees by biting off their heads and robbing the nest of larvae and honey, according to LiveScience.

A Chinese medical official in the city of Ankang, where 18 people have died, said people should seek medical assistance if they are stung more than 10 times and warned that emergency treatment is required for anyone stung 30 times or more.

Between May and November hornet attacks are a problem in the area, The Guardian reported, adding that experts suggest warmer temperatures have led to more successful breeding among the hornets.

The hornets, which can grow up to 5 centimeters long and have a 6 millimeter-long stinger, will only attack humans if provoked, but laborers have reportedly been advancing deeper into wooded areas where they may disturb nests.

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