Chainsaw triggers wasp attack

By Victoria White -
Paul Cameron, 60, was airlifted to hospital after being attacked by a swarm of wasps.
Paul Cameron, 60, was airlifted to hospital after being attacked by a swarm of wasps.

A swarm of wasps attacked a 60-year-old man yesterday after he accidentally chain-sawed through a wasp nest.

Paul Cameron had been cutting a limb off some firewood when he hit the nest and the swarm of wasps began attacking him.

After being stung, Mr Cameron said he ran about 30 yards followed by the wasps before he "went down", after suffering an anaphylactic reaction.

Although Mr Cameron had been stung by bees and wasps before, he never had a reaction - but he had also never been stung by multiple wasps at once.

He was airlifted from Porangahau at 9am yesterday by the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter.

As a St John ambulance officer, when the incident occurred Mr Cameron said he knew what the consequences could be.

Despite this, he said he "wasn't too worried" because neighbour and fellow ambulance officer John Galbraith was with him.

He was transported to Hawke's Bay Hospital in a stable condition, and was discharged yesterday.

Today, Mr Cameron said he would be heading back out to cut some more firewood.

Te Papa entomologist Phil Sirvid said finding a wasp nest that way would be "pretty nightmarish".

When they feel threatened, wasps release an "alarm pheromone" which triggers a mass attack.

"A chain-saw going into a nest will have alarmed a lot of them", Mr Sirvid said. "It would have upset them greatly".

Mr Sirvid said when wasps are triggered to attack they will sting, and in doing so release their venom into the person's bloodstream.

"When a bee stings someone the sting breaks off," Mr Sirvid said. "Wasps can try and try again, they can sting multiple times, and that's part of the problem."

He said he usually heard more about people suffering anaphylactic reactions after bee stings.

With wasps he said: "One sting isn't pleasant. For most people it's just painful and inconvenient and that's all, luckily."

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