Mother wants others to know what to do
Leonidas Farrell was following his grandfather as he cut grass in the backyard in Bayou Gauche when the child stepped on a nest of hornets that swarmed all over him.
“I told him to run,” said his mother, Vanna Viergge, who was also there. “Can you imagine hundreds of hornets? They were swarming and following him.”
She was stunned at the sight of them rushing from a nest hidden in monkey grass surrounding an oak tree. They were attacking her son.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Vanna said. “It was devastating.”
Her mind flooded with fears about her grandfather being allergic to insect stings and the possibility of her sons inheriting the trait. The threat was real as Leonidas swatted intensely at them, flinging them onto his five-year-old brother Titus nearby.
“We thought they were regular bees, but where were hundreds of them, which turned out to be hornets,” Vanna said. “They were stinging me as I tried to remove them.”
Leonidas was frantic.
“I was walking down the road, like I always do, and my mom says ‘Get back in the yard,’” he said. “I saw a dead owl. I always look at the animals and I walked right by the nest. One stings me on my arm, and I say, ‘Ow! Bees!’”
They do resemble bees in color and size, but that’s where the similarity ends and he learned this, too.
“I had about 20 on me, but I only got seven to 10 stings,” he said. “I was just burning.”
His mother used the hose to try to wash them off, but they wouldn’t budge.
The youngster admitted to being afraid, and when they were finally removed he had stings on his arm, neck, belly, chest and back.
According to his mother, “They were relentless. You could hit them and they weren’t coming off.”
“He was red everywhere and crying,” she said. “I’m screaming to help him, but grandpa couldn’t hear anything. He was still on the lawnmower.”
Add to this worry, Vanna’s own concern about whether she was allergic to them, and she is pregnant.
“Hornets look a lot like honey bees, but they attack more viciously and they don’t stop,” she recounted. “They all chase you.”
Vanna said, as she killed a hornet, more came.
Once Leonidas was cleared of the voracious insects and ran to a different side of the yard, he was attacked again. Hornets tracked him based on an attack pheromone they release to protect the nest, which means killing one tells the other hornets to mobilize and attack as a group.
The attack as so vicious it left them traumatized and jumpy when even a dragonfly flitted by, and Leonidas complained that even the bed sheets hurt him so he went without them for at least two days.
“For a while, they were scared to get out of the car at grandpa’s house,” said Vanna of his house next door.
“My son had welts everywhere,” she said. “One was so bad it looked like it was going to bleed.”
Leonidas went to school with welts, but wasn’t allergic to the stings.
Grandfather Ernest Matherne wasn’t stung. Vanna was stung, but not allergic and so was Titus, Leonidas’ younger brother.
All this was new to Vanna, whose only sting in childhood came from caterpillars. She went to Facebook where she posted their episode to get help.
Vanna was quick to explain she regretted killing bees so she was relieved when the beekeeper reported they were hornets.
“It was horrifying,” she said. “I really feel like people need to know it was hornets. You kill them and they follow you more.”