TODAY

TODAY   |  October 08, 2013

Giant hornets kill 42, injure thousands in China

At least 1,600 people in China have been injured and 42 killed by giant Asian hornets alongside a smaller but equally lethal species. NBC’s Ian Williams reports.

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>> all right. well, we will switch topics, thankfully, to an entire region. china living in some fear and it's an unlikely suspect, killer giant hornets. dozens of people died and more than 16 have been hurt and local officials are exhausting all of their options to fight them off. ian williams is in beijing this morning with details. good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. we're back in beijing but we brought back a sample here which i'll introduce to you more formally a little bit later. they are really scary and have an entire chinese province on edge.

>> the giant one.

>> reporter: this is public enemy number one. the asian giant hornet . the world's biggest. as large as a human thumb. together with a smaller but as lethal species they killed 42 people since july and brought fear to the province.

>> the most dangerous.

>> they have big nests. the groups are so big. they kill people.

>> reporter: at least 1600 people have been injured. the hornet's venom is highly toxic. it can dissolve human tissue . more than five stings can cause renal failure . entire villages are on edge. they're used to hornets but never on this scale which experts blame on hot and dry weather . she now rarely leaves her home after being stung four times on her face and head when she disturbed a hornet's nest while picking chestnuts. everybody is so scared she told me. i've never seen so many flying around. the authorities struggled to con trot the hornets which can fly at up to 25 miles per hour. hundreds of extermination teams have been mobilized to destroy their nest which is are at their biggest this time of the year. firefighters taking no chance with the aggressive swarms of hornets.

>> this is one of more than 4,000 nets destroyed in the last week. each one can contain more than 1,000 hornets. you really don't want to stumble across one of these. the giant hornet is a leading predator. the sharks of the insect world. an expert says that like sharks they only attack if they're disturbed but that comes with little comfort to the villagers here. well, this specimen is now dead but i'm still keeping my distance. it's one of the smaller ones but stings from hornets like this can down a cow and five stings can bring renal failure to humans. the authorities insist they're now in control and say cold weather will send the hornets into hibernation soon but for now the heat wave continues as does the hornet menace, savannah.

>> ian williams , terrifying.

>> send them into hibernation until next year.

>> yeah and then they're going to be really ticked.