Walkers attacked by bees in southern France

Normally peaceful insects 'had probably been disturbed and irritated' by keeper, expert believes

Bees that attacked a pair of walkers in southeast France had probably recently been disturbed by a beekeeper, an expert has said.

The pair - a 70-year-old man and a 52-year-old woman - needed urgent hospital treatment after the incident in Le Brignon, south of Le Puy-en-Velay, in the Haute-Loire.

The walkers were found by firefighters not far from hives along a hiking trail. They were surrounded by an "aggressive cloud of bees". The man had been stung between 200 and 300 times and was unconscious. The woman had between 150 and 200 stings.

According to reports, the hives were close to the public right of way.

The Public Prosecutor's Office has opened an investigation for "unintentional injuries ... due to a ... breach of a duty of safety or care".

The captain of the emergency team reported that he "asked for the help of a beekeeper who was nearby" to help the walker and his friend.

Gérard Arnold, Director of Research Emeritus at the CNRS and specialist in the biology and behaviour of honeybees told franceinfo that bees would not normally attack humans - but said it appeared that, in this instance, they had been 'disturbed and irritated', which prompted them to defend their hive.

Dr Arnold said: "Bees are only interested in flowers, not humans. This is therefore an unusual situation. If one or more bees therefore seem aggressive ... it is best to move far enough away as quickly as possible."

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