A man died after being attacked by hornets on Wednesday in the first reported fatality from hornet stings this year, prompting authorities to warn the public to take precautions when in the mountains or in forested areas.
The incident was the latest in a spate of hornet attacks over the past few months in mountainous regions throughout the nation, which resulted in serious injuries to scores of people who had to be admitted to hospitals for treatment.
The victim, surnamed Wu (吳), was doing landscaping at Tamkang University’s Lanyang Campus in Yilan County’s Jiaosi Township (礁溪) with four other workers when he was attacked.
A fellow worker, surnamed Yu (游), said all five of the landscaping crew wore long-sleeved protective clothing, including head nets, while they trimmed grass and cleaned up walkways on the campus, which is on the slope of Linmei Mountain (林美山).
“We started work at 1pm. Suddenly a swarm of several hundred hornets appeared and attacked us. Then we saw Wu putting a hand to his head, shouting that he had been stung and it was very painful,” Yu said.
“At the time, Wu appeared to be fine. However, within two minutes he fell down and lost consciousness, with white foam trickling from his mouth,” he added.
The crew called “119” for help, but when an ambulance arrived to take Wu to hospital, he had no pulse and was not breathing. He was pronounced dead after efforts to resuscitate him failed.
Yu said that one of the crew may have inadvertently disturbed the hornets’ nest. He said the swarm that attacked them were “black-tailed tiger-head hornets,” as they are called in Taiwan.
It was learned later that Wu, 47, was stung by hornets three months ago, which likely had contributed to his death.
“It seems that Wu died from anaphylactic shock, which is a severe allergic reaction by the body,” said Liu Shih-wei (劉士偉), resident doctor at the emergency ward of the National Yang-Ming University Hospital. “When he was stung by hornets the first time, his body produced antibodies in reaction to the venom. When he was attacked by hornets on Wednesday, the existing antibodies in his system produced a serious allergic reaction, he went into shock and passed away.”
Local firefighter units were dispatched to the site to investigate. They reported seeing a number of black-tailed tiger head hornets flying about in the area, but they could not find the nest. University officials promised that warning signs would be posted in the area to alert people to the presence of the deadly hornets.
Health authorities are warning people to stay away from hornets’ nests, and to wear long trousers and shirts with long sleeves when in forested and mountainous areas.