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Yes, the Asian hornet is lethal

A meme showing four large black winged insects was shared on Facebook on 7 December 2019.

It says: “There is a hornet the size of your thumb that stings you with flesh dissolving acid.” The acid acts as a pheromone “to alert the other hornets to sting you until you die”.

The meme was flagged as possibly false by the social network’s fact-checking system

Is there really a hornet that can sting you until you die? We investigated.

Venomous Asian hornet

Using a reverse image search we identified the insects shown in the meme as dead specimens of Vespa mandarinia, also known as the Asian giant hornet or the Japanese giant hornet.

The species is the world’s largest hornet. It is found in east and southeast Asia and is the most lethal insect in the world.

This hornet’s sting contains venom, which has chemicals that can cause human skin to dissolve or organ failure.

The venom could be fatal to people, according to Dr Teisha Rowland, a scientist writing on her blog Biology Bytes. Depending on how much venom or stings are released, a person can die as a result of kidney failure.

According to National Geographic, hornets can also release pheromones, chemicals which can attract other hornets to target one subject. 

Hornets do not typically attack people unless provoked, but there have been a few reported cases.

Hornet’s sting deadly

In 2013 National Geographic and other media reported that 42 people had died after being swarmed and stung by hornets in northwestern China.

At the time, National Geographic reported Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California Davis in the US, as saying: “The problem with this particular hornet is that it's big, sort of thumb-sized, and it packs a lot of venom.

“Even if you're not allergic, the amount of foreign protein that circulates in your blood after so many stings can cause kidney failure.”

Yes, there is a large hornet that can sting you to death. – Butchie Seroto


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