Three people were injured in a mountainous region of Greater Taichung on Monday, when a hiking team was attacked by swarms of ferocious hornets. It was the latest in a spate of hornet attacks across the nation.
The hornet assault took place at the Wuwowei Mountain (烏我尾山) hiking trail in the Guguan (谷關) region. Two of the victims suffered serious injuries and received medical treatment at a hospital in Dongshih (東勢), and one was later transferred to a hospital in Greater Tainan.
Stings by Asian giant hornets, the world’s largest hornet species, cause painful localized swelling and can be fatal to some individuals due to allergic reaction to its venom, which contains a type of neurotoxin.
In Taiwan and China, they are called “tiger head bees” (虎頭蜂), due to the bright orange-brown stripes on their heads and bodies.
Amid the surge of hornet attacks in many areas, health authorities are warning people to stay away from hornets’ nests and to wear long sleeves and long trousers when in mountainous areas.
“If you come across hornets, do not agitate them and do not attempt to swat them. One should cover one’s head and hands with clothing and retreat quickly from the area. Seek medical treatment right away for hornet stings,” the warning says.
In Monday’s incident, a woman in her late 40s surnamed Kuo (郭) was stung more than 50 times.
While attempting to run away from the hornets, she fell and suffered a head wound.
Another victim was a man in his 50s surnamed Chu (朱), who was stung about 20 times on his arms.
One member of the hiking group from Greater Tainan said they saw “thick swarms of hornets flying toward us. It was a scary scene, we were all very frightened.”
“The hornets surrounded us and were circling above our heads. Their furious, loud buzzing filled the air. It felt like we were besieged by fleets of aircraft on a bombing raid,” another member said.
“The only thing we could do was run away, and we kept on running,” he added, estimating the swarms comprised several thousand hornets.
After running for some distance, with the aggressive hornets still in pursuit, most of the hikers got down on the ground and covered themselves with jackets and clothing. The group was trapped for nearly three hours, before the hornets gradually retreated, allowing them to return to the trail entrance, where their bus was parked.
On Thursday last week, 65 students and academics from Taipei on a geological field trip in Hualien County were attacked by hornet swarms. The group was examining rocks on a river bed in Taroko National Park when they were attacked.
While running to escape, a teaching assistant surnamed Lee (李) slipped on rocks and broke a leg. He had to be carried out on a stretcher and transported to a hospital in Hualien. Twenty-nine people were stung and treated at the hospital.
On Friday last week, a family of four was attacked by hornets while they were picking vegetables on a riverbank in Yilan County’s Datong Township (大同). The father lost consciousness and went into shock, but doctors at a hospital in Yilan’s Luodong City (羅東) said he had recovered.
Earlier this month, scores of people were injured by hornets in northern Taiwan in three separate incidents over one weekend.
On July 6, 13 people from two families were attacked in a mountainous area of Yilan County, while 12 people were attacked at a mountain park in Taoyuan County. The next day, 13 people were stung in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Neidong Recreation Area.