News Stories

Bugs Invading People's Ears

Insects are invading people's ears in the U.K. 82-year-old Ron Packer heard a high-pitched hum in his hearing aid that turned out to be an attack by a swarm of wasps. And Patricia McLeod had to go to the doctor to have a large moth removed from her ear.

Packer disturbed a wasp's nest while gardening. When the wasps attacked him, they swarmed around his hearing aid. He was eventually stung 8 times. He says, "They stung me at the front and back of my hearing aid area and really homed in on it. I was badly stung and was left with a boxer's cauliflower ear. I couldn't wear the hearing aid for a few days or sleep on that side."

Hearing aid expert Duncan Collett-Fenson says, "If Mr. Packer's hearing aid had worked its way loose during his gardening then it could have been prone to feedback. That would have made a very high-pitched whistling or buzzing sound that the wasps could have picked up on."

Beekeeper Don Streatfield says, "Wasps and bees are attracted to electrical goods, particularly ones that vibrate. And they attack in swarms, because when they sting they emit a pheromone, or chemical, telling the other wasps to help them."

Patricia McLeod wasn't wearing a hearing aid, but her ear attracted an insect anyway. She was falling asleep when she heard a buzzing noise. When it didn't go away, she assumed she was suffering from tinnitus, a condition that causes ringing in the ears. But when she went to the doctor a few days later, a nurse washed out her ear with a syringe and removed a two-inch long dead moth.

McLeod says, "I was in my bed dozing off and I felt a fluttering in my ear, it was such a shock. I jumped out of bed and asked my husband to have a look in my ear but he couldn't see anything. It was just a horrible sound, an awful fluttering. I thought I had burst a blood vessel. It was a nightmare. I went to the doctor, I was absolutely petrified about what could have happened."

Nurse Carol Hunter says, "When we syringed her ear, out of the machine and into the water came a big moth that was about one to two inches long. It was really horrible and an unpleasant experience for her. We certainly haven't had anyone in here with insects in their ears before."

Gordon Spiers, of the Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World, says, "The only explanation I could possibly think for something like this is if it was a wax moth. They have been known to be attracted to honey bee colonies."

Maybe they're trying to tell us something?

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