Sat, Sep 14, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Hornets are a deadly threat: experts

EXTREME CAUTIONHornets can kill with two stings and are especially vicious this time of year as they seek to protect their nests before winter, authorities have warned

By Yang Yi-min, Wang Yang-yu and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

The authorities have again urged people to exercise extreme caution and wear protective clothing when hiking or walking in the wilderness, after yet another fatal hornet attack, the third this year.

The body of the latest victim, surnamed Liu (劉), was found on Monday in the hills of Hansi Village (寒溪村) in Yilan County’s Datong Township (大同).

Liu, a Chunghwa Telecom employee, heard that a colleague surnamed Huang (黃) had found large numbers of hornets buzzing around his property in the Yilan village.

Sixty-four-year-old Liu, who lived in New Taipei City (新北市), volunteered to remove the hornet nests. After successfully taking down and wrapping up one nest on Saturday last week, Liu went up again, alone, on Sunday to remove another nest, but he did not return that day.

Huang called the search and rescue team at the local fire department, and they recovered his body on Monday.

Liu was found wearing makeshift gear comprised of boots, a rubber raincoat, hat and head net, and with a towel wrapped around his neck. He had used tape to seal the gaps.

However, a rescue team member said there were holes and breaks in his clothing, and they found four hornets in the towel around his neck.

“His face was stung by hornets. The insects attacked him and entered through the holes and gaps in his clothing. He was not wearing the kind of protective gear worn by professionals. It seems he underestimated what the hornets could do,” search and rescue team captain Chen Po-ching (陳保慶) said.

Chen said they encountered large hornet swarms flying around the area, and three nests were found.

He said that the species in question is very aggressive and carries a highly toxic venom. A person can die from just two stings.

“The victim’s makeshift gear had lots of gaps, it was not thick enough, and wearing a towel around the neck could not protect him,” Chen said.

“People must not go removing hornet nests unless they are well-prepared and have the right type of professional protective gear,” he added.

The peak season for attacks is from August to November, when hornets are preparing for winter and will defend their nests against trespassers.

The hornets in this case were the Vespa ducalis species, known as “black-tailed tiger-head bees” (黑尾虎頭蜂), with bright orange-brown stripes and black at the anterior end.

This was the third reported fatality this year: A man, 47, working on a landscaping job at a school in Yilan County’s Jiaosi Township (礁溪) was killed by hornets on Aug. 7. A woman, 67, died from hornet stings at Taitung County’s Chihshang Township (池上) on Sept. 4.

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