A man died in Spain after being stung in the eyebrow by an Asian hornet, a slightly smaller version of the so-called murder hornet. According to the Spanish publication, Marca, the 54-year-old man had a beehive and was trying to “deal with” a wasp nest that was near the beehive when he was stung. Emergency workers were called and found the beekeeper lying near his beehive on May 10. They were unable to revive him, The Olive Press reported.
The sad incident happened in Villestro in Galicia in the north-west of Spain. According to Scitechdaily a species of Asian hornet has been in Europe since 2003 after being accidentally introduced from Asia. Since then, the insects have been “rapidly spreading through Europe. Both experts and citizen scientists keep on identifying the new invader spreading all over the Old Continent in the last decades,” according to Scitechdaily.
The European version is a little smaller than the so-called murder hornets that have come to the Pacific Northwest recently. Yellow-legged Asian hornet (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) were first spotted in Spain in 2010. They average about an inch long whereas Asian giant hornets, dubbed murder hornets, can grow up to two inches. Both species are known for their attacks on bees nests.
Asian Hornet Stings Can Kill Humans, but the Bigger Threat is to Bees
James Carpenter, an entomologist at the American Natural History Museum told Business Insider that the media hype over Asian giant hornets is unwarranted. “If you don’t bother their nest, they aren’t likely to bother you. It’s just because they’re so big that people are freaking out,” he said.
Many entomologists are concerned about the effects the invasive hornets would have on pollinating insects, which are integral for the growth of food crops.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. More than 3,500 species of native bees help increase crop yields. Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, birds and bats, and beetles and other insects.”
Doug Yanega, a senior scientist at the Entomology Research Museum at the University of California at Riverside, told Business Insider that because the hornets are so big, they “take a lot of food to survive. There’s not really an awful lot that’s out there for them to feed on except for honeybees.”
Since bee populations have already been on the decline in the last decades in the U.S, a new predator is not good news. According to Penn State’s Department of Entomology, “In the US, beekeepers have lost ~30% of their colonies every year since 2006, with total annual losses sometimes reaching as high as 42%.”
An Average of 62 Americans Die a Year From Hornet, Wasp & Bee Stings
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “During 2000–2017, a total of 1,109 deaths from hornet, wasp, and bee stings occurred, for an annual average of 62 deaths. Deaths ranged from a low of 43 in 2001 to a high of 89 in 2017. Approximately 80% of the deaths were among males.”
In any given year people are more likely to die from allergies to insect venom than from snake or spider bites, according to an Ohio State Fact Sheet on allergies, who say that the majority of human deaths by insects are caused by bees, wasps, hornets, bumblebees and ants.
Insect allergies can cause anaphylactic shock in humans, a life-threatening reaction to an allergen. For one out of 100 people, an insect sting can be fatal.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports that the severity of an insect sting is unpredictable. They wrote, “Following one sting reaction, the next sting by the same type of insect is up to 70% more likely to cause another systemic reaction… And people can be allergic to more than one stinging insect…”
It is recommended that people with insect allergies carry the emergency medication, Epinephrine, that can be instantly injected if a person is stung to keep them from going into anaphylactic shock.