An 87-year-old elderly woman from Ozu, Ehime Prefecture, Japan, died last month after being stung by a swarm of more than 150 Asian giant hornets, also known in Japanese as osuzumebachi, which translates to “giant sparrow bee.”
Wheelchair-bound Chieko Kikuchi was traveling home from a nursing facility at around 4 p.m. on September 11 when a swarm of giant hornets attacked her, the local fire department said on October 5, according to Japan Times.
Emergency responders recalled how they were forced to stand and watch as the helpless elderly woman was being stung to death by the hornets, whose nest was believed to be attached near her home. They couldn’t do anything to save her because they did not have any protective clothing at the time of the incident.
Kikuchi was rushed to the hospital after the attack, which lasted for 50 minutes. The elderly woman was pronounced dead the following day due to multiple organ failure, reported The Independent.
Experts, meanwhile, described the tragedy as somewhat “unusual”.
Typically, hornets are “peaceful” creatures, noted Fight Bugs. They usually retaliate whenever people disturb their home or if they feel they are being threatened by outside creatures.
The very best way to avoid a hornet sting is to stay out of its attack zone, and whatever you do, do not try swatting them — this will only make the situation worse as they are known to be fast fliers. Wear a protective jacket if you know there is a hornet nest nearby. And lastly, have wasp or hornet spray on hand.
Hornets kill about 20 people each year in Japan, with large venomous stingers that Masato Ono, an entomologist at Tokyo’s Tamagawa University, described as “like a hot nail through my leg”.