A cyclist in France was rushed to hospital on Sunday after being stung around 50 times by a swarm of hornets while he was mountain biking with a group of friends.
The rider, aged 58, was taken to hospital in Roanne in the Loire department, around 90km northwest of Lyon after he entered anaphylactic shock following the attack, but is said to be out of danger, reports Le Parisien.
Two other riders, aged 58 and 72 and like the principal victim also from the neighbouring department of Saône-et-Loire, were also stung at least 15 times in the incident.
It happened as they rode in a group of a dozen riders in Briennon, a small town located on the River Loire a few kilometres north of Roanne.
Commander Philippe Veluire of the emergency centre in Roanne said: “The nest was located about 2 m from the path where the cyclists were riding,” and that it was suspended at a height of around 2 metres, hanging from a dead tree trunk.
The ferocity of the attack apparently surprised firefighters – who in France are also one of the principal providers of emergency medical services – due to the distance from the nest the riders were, and a number of hypotheses are being explored to try and explain why it happened.
“It was not the leading cyclists in the group who were the most stung”, Commander Veluire said.
“Was it the vibrations of the ground linked to the passage of bicycles that attracted the hornets? This is one theory.”
Another is that a branch may have fallen on the nest. “We know from experience that when you get too close to a hornet's nest, they become aggressive,” he continued.
“The Roanne firefighters were able to verify this when they intervened to destroy it, after taking care of the victims. According to our information, the life of the most affected cyclist is no longer in danger,” he added.
The insects in question were reported to be European hornets, the largest species of wasp native to the continent, with workers measuring up to 2.5 centimetres in length.
Unlike the larger, more aggressive Giant Asian Hornet – not present in Europe, but an invasive species in North America where they have acquired the nickname ‘murder hornets’, they do not generally attack humans unless, for example, they are accidently trodden on, or they perceive a threat to their nest or food source.
A smaller species, the Asian Hornet, is present in Europe, but like its native counterparts is unlikely to attack people unless threatened.
Back in 2017, we shared a YouTube video showing a swarm of bees attacking riders taking part in a mountain bike race in Spain, with one of the cyclists stung 80 times and needing hospital treatment, as did four fellow competitors.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.