Man badly injured in wasp swarm attack

By James Fuller -
Peter Fahy. Photo / Joel Ford
Peter Fahy. Photo / Joel Ford

German wasps stung a Tauranga man so badly he was sick for three days and the skin peeled from his hand.

Pete Fahy was cutting scrub on his 1ha Ohauiti property when he stumbled over their nest last month. The swarm chased the 61-year-old for more than 25m and stung him repeatedly.

"They're killers. They swarm and come at you, they're deadly. I thought if I got out of the way I'd be fine, but they chased me for 20 or 30 yards," he told the Bay of Plenty Times.

"I was stung about 10 times on the back of the neck, the chest and on my hands. It really knocked the stuffing out of me. I was laid low for three days. I was just on the couch, couldn't move and my hand swelled up like a balloon.

"The pain was just intense and constant, it was throbbing all night. It was like being burned by a fire. I'm not allergic to bee stings but after about 12 hours a layer of skin just peeled off my hand."

He has recovered from the recent attack and is today speaking out to warn others.

Mr Fahy thanked his "caring neighbours" who witnessed the attack then gave him antihistamine tablets and "kept an eye on me".

But he said he was not impressed by the response of local authorities and wanted to warn people about the pests.

"I phoned Environment Bay of Plenty and Tauranga City Council and they both said it was up to me to get rid of the wasps.

"Well they have people employed to get rid of poisonous plants, stoats and rats, so why not to deal with something which could actually kill a human being? You can call them out for dangerous dogs, so why not dangerous wasps?"

A man died in a horrific wasp attack in February last year after being stung "hundreds" of times by swarming wasps in a Marlborough Sounds forest. Morris Robert Stretch, 62, was killed by a heart attack brought on by the frenzied attack, a coroner ruled.

Mr Stretch had been collecting firewood with his nephew when the pair disturbed a massive underground wasps' nest.

Mr Fahy said he was especially worried about children who went playing in forests or on scrubland.

"We've got to do something to protect our kids. We shouldn't be waiting for a disaster and somebody getting killed."

Since the attack, Mr Fahy said he had bought a beekeeper's uniform to protect him when working on his property.

He advised people to keep grassy areas well cut.

"They nest in the ground but they don't seem to like the direct sunlight on them. I'm going to graze my land with donkeys now to keep the grass short."

A Tauranga City Council spokeswoman said wasps on private property were not a council responsibility. "Anyone who has a problem wasp nest on their property should contact a pest control firm to arrange for the wasps to be removed.

"If someone finds a wasp nest on council-owned property we advise them to let us know by calling [07] 577 7000 so we can make arrangements to have the wasps removed."

Pete Huggins, Tauranga Department of Conservation ranger community relations, said German wasps were well established in the region, along with common wasps. "Trampers need to be prepared when outdoors, as wasps are especially prevalent in bush areas. Carrying antihistamine cream or other medication is a good idea if you are especially allergic.

"We will respond if people want to report wasps nests found on Department of Conservation tracks, as the insects can pose a risk to people."

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