A man has died after he and his friend were attacked by a swarm of murder hornets while fruit picking in Portugal. The 70-year-old victim, identified by The Mirror by his first name Celso, was picking persimmons with his friend, 60-year-old Abilio Rodrigues, when he was stung by a swarm of the insects.
Murder hornets, otherwise known as Asian giant hornets or Vespa mandarinia, have been making headlines this year after researchers found the first instance of these insects in the U.S. In May 2020, The New York Times reported that the insects are responsible for as many as 50 deaths a year in Japan.
Washington State University said that murder hornets’ stings are extremely painful with a strong neurotoxin and “Multiple stings can kill humans, even if they are not allergic.” WSU researchers and other scientists are working hard to find the murder hornets in the U.S. and eradicate the invasive species, as they can be devastating to the honey bee population.
Celso Died From Cardiac Arrest Caused by an Allergic Reaction to the Murder Hornet Stings
According to The Mirror, Rodrigues told a local Portuguese media outlet that Celso went into anaphylactic shock and by the time paramedics arrived, he’d suffered a heart attack and died. Rodrigues said: “I’ve never seen anything like it… I went to cut the fruit from the tree and they attacked me.”
They stung in the arm and on the head while I was on a ladder about 20 feet from the ground but I endured the pain so as not to fall. Celso was also hurt and we went to try to get help. I put vinegar on my wounds to see if it eased the pain but by then Celso was having difficulty speaking.
The fire chief, Joao Nunes, added that first responders worked on Celso for about an hour, trying to revive him, but they were unsuccessful. Rodrigues said he’s still in shock at the incident and his friend’s death: “I could have been killed as well. I’m still suffering with the trauma this has caused me.”
The murder hornet nest in question was destroyed after the incident.
Scientists Have Been Developing a Plan to Eradicate the Murder Hornets in the U.S. Before They Can Spread Further
The murder hornets have been spotted in the Pacific Northwest, having been first discovered in late 2019 in British Columbia and Washington State, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). The danger with the murder hornets, beyond their risk to human health, is the capacity for destruction of honey bees, which are already compromised.
The WSDA stated that: “A few hornets can destroy a hive in a matter of hours. The hornets enter a ‘slaughter phase’ where they kill bees by decapitating them. They then defend the hive as their own, taking the brood to feed their own young.”
The concern researchers have is that the hornets could spread across the U.S. if they aren’t successfully eradicated in the next two years, WSDA entomologist Chris Looney told the National Geographic. He said researchers are attempting different methods to locate and eradicate nests, including setting traps, using heat-sensitive technologies to find underground hives and asking the public for information on potential nests.