A plague of hornets, each the size of a human thumb, have descended on Shaanxi province this summer—at least 28 have been stung to death, while another 419 have been injured, according to a local news report from China Radio Network (CRN), via the New York Times’ Chris Buckley. The death toll from hornet attacks in Ankang city is more than twice the annual average between 2002 and 2005, say the Ankang police, as the Guardian reports. A local doctor said hospitalizations due to hornet attacks have risen steadily over the years.
Why the uptick? The population of Asian giant hornets (vespa mandarinia), as they’re known, has surged largely because of climate change, says the Shaanxi Provincial Forestry Department. The average winter temperature in Ankang rose 1.10 ℃ in the span of a few years alone, allowing more hornets to survive the winter. And it’s not just China; rising temperatures are behind the spread of another deadly Chinese hornets species, vespa velutina, in South Korea and Europe.
The chief prey of the Chinese hornet? Honeybees. As global warming makes more of the world hospitable to Chinese hornets, more honeybees are dying in the beepocalypse. Areas in Europe where they’re likeliest to invade “hold among the highest densities of bee-hives in Europe,” according to recent research. Here’s a heat map of where Chinese hornets will be able to survive as temperatures rise.
Japanese honey bees have figured out how to fight back, by cooking hornets. After surrounding a hornet in a spherical formation, Japanese honey bees engage their flight muscles, raising their collective temperature beyond what hornets can withstand.