Man attacked by swarm of German wasps

By James Fuller

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

Pete Fahy was cutting scrub on his 1ha Ohauiti property when he stumbled over their nest. 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. My neighbours witnessed it," 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 or anything like that 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 gave him antihistamine tablets on the afternoon of the attack 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?"

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 in Boscabel Drive, Ohauiti.

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 577 7000 so we can make arrangements to have the wasps removed."

Pete Huggins, Tauranga Department of Conservation ranger community relations, said the pests were well established.

"Unfortunately, German wasps are very 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."


GERMAN WASPS



  • The wasp's scientific name is Vespula germanica.


  • German wasps were believed to have been introduced to New Zealand in the 1940s inside a crate of aeroplane parts from Europe.


  • German wasps prefer to nest in the ground, a hollow tree or other sheltered place, than up high in a tree branch.


  • The sting inflicted by a German wasp can be very painful.


  • Queen and worker wasps can sting repeatedly but drones can't.


  • In mid-summer and autumn, wasps will venture out of their nests and into houses in search of fruit, jams, cakes, meat and other sweet foods and liquids.


  • German wasps are native to Europe and can be found all over the Northern Hemisphere, including Africa and temperate Asia.


  • The wasp has been introduced into other parts of the world, including North America, South America (Argentina and Chile), Australia and New Zealand.

- Sources: Victoria University Library and Wikipedia

 

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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