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Aquitaine hit by hornet invasion

Seven people hospitalised with stings in the past week as the creatures' numbers continue to swell

ASIAN hornets have started attacking people in the south-west of France, with seven taken to hospital with stings in the past week.

A woman walking her five-month-old son in Saint-Vite near Villeneuve-sur-Lot accidentally disrupted a nest containing hundreds of the yellow-legged creatures on Friday.

Four passers-by who came to her aid were also badly stung.

In the same week, a school caretaker in the Gironde was the victim of a similar attack after disturbing a nest in the ground.

The bee-eating hornets are thought to have arrived in the country on a cargo container from China in 2004.

Hornet specialist Denis Thiery, a researcher at science institute Inra in Bordeaux, said they could spread to about half of the country because they have no predator here and the French climate suits them well, especially in city centres.

"We have gone from finding one nest in 2004 to more than 2,000 in the Bordeaux region in 2007," he said.

Local authorities in the Lot-et-Garonne have warned people with bee allergies to be "extremely cautious".

If you discover a hornet nest, you should call on a specialist to have it removed and not attempt to destroy it yourself.

One bee-keeper in the region reported that 80% of his hives were wiped out by a hornet attack in 2007.

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