Letters about hornets


Thanks to all readers who wrote in about Asian hornets, after our article this week about a man who died after being stung by one.

Here are some of the letters we had about it, and apologies for publishing a picture of a giant Asian hornet rather than Vespa Velutina last week.

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Your article about the man with sting allergies incorrectly shows a picture of a giant Asian hornet, not of the invasive species vespa velutina, asian hornet.

Matt Lodge

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In response to your article about a farmer stung by a hornet. In general the term Anaphylactic shock is misunderstood and abused. The consequence of repeat exposure to a potentially toxic substance to which you are sensitised is a vascular and cell membrane response with swelling of mucous membranes of the mouth and airway being common. While the onset may be within minutes it is generally longer and most cases there is time to get to medical aid.

A farmer may well have been exposed to previous stings making him sensitive, but the characteristic of hornet stings is the more severe pain which would be more likely to have been the cause of his losing control of the car. If there was no other physical injury from the crash causing death, then swelling of the face and oropharynx would imply anaphylaxis, with the crash preventing him from getting treatment in time. Presumably a post mortem was carried out?

Roderick Bramwell

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First the animal on the photo is NOT a hornet either European or otherwise. The Asian variety is all black with the one orange sripe on the abdomen and an orange face; and much bigger like all hornets.

Hornets don’t usually don’t care about humans unless they feel trapped – presumably like the one in the car- or threatened in their home. To answer your question, the sting was very painful but no more than a European hornet, and I didn’t have any further effects. I had been attacked by furious bees in the past, and since then I have become naturally de-sensitised. I developed an interest in hymenopters, and from personal experience as well as Google i conclude that the danger is a matter of personal sensitivity, as well as the number and location of the sting(s), rather than the type of hornet.

Nancy Rocher

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I have been unfortunate enough to have been stung by a frélon (hornet) a few years ago. It stung me twice.on the arm…and did it hurt? The swelling lasted for a couple of days and then all was gone except for two marks where the stinger had entered my arm. A few days ago I was stung by a frélon asiatique. I was sitting at my desk with the window open and saw it sitting in my hibiscus outside. It flew straight at me and stung me in the arm before I had time to even register the fact or react.. The initial pain was much less than the frélon…..but the swelling has been farm, far more severe. I have a feeling that the level where we humans suffer from anaphylactic shock is not the same where the asian hornet is concerned. I am just glad that it stung me and not my three year old daughter.
The poison seems much more “efficient” in this hornet than in other types. Being a long time motorcyclist I have been stung many many times over the years by wasps and bees and have no reaction to them whatsoever, in fact I used to say I preferred a wasp sting to a mosquito bite. For the young and the elderly these invasive species are surely of special concern….or at least should be.

Martin Tubières

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In your piece about a person dying from the sting of an Asiatic Hornet you use a photograph which may be a hornet from Asia but is certainly not a specimen of Vespa velutina which is currently invading Europe. Vespa Velutina is smaller than the European native hornet. Its main danger lies around its nest where, if disturbed, it will attack in large numbers at the slightest disturbance. The European hornet is a much less aggressive insect. The illustration you used is probably a giant hornet which, I think, is found in Japan.

Stephan Young