Tim Powell was cutting down a tree in his back yard when he disturbed a wasp nest, resulting in stings to his head, face and hands.
“I started feeling a bit hot and flustered, so I went inside and took a cold shower, but then I started not being able to breathe,” he said.
He called an ambulance and in the five to 10 minutes it took for the crew to arrive, he had nearly lost consciousness.
“I knew what was happening, I knew as soon as I started struggling to breathe that I was having an anaphylactic reaction,” he said.
“As hard as I tried to take a breath, I felt like I had six people sitting on my chest.”
Doctors stabilised him at Joondalup Health Campus and said that without the ambulance, he would not have made it to hospital in time.
Mr Powell said he had not previously had an allergic reaction, but now had to carry an EpiPen.
He has found several other wasp nests on his property, identified as belonging to paper wasps, which will be removed as he was “not risking it”.
He said the wasps were aggressive and suggested people be wary of them.
“When I knocked it over, they just came at me – within seconds they were on me,” he said.
“If you’ve got kids and you’ve got overgrown bushes, cut them right back so they have got nowhere to hide.”
Department of Agriculture and Food entomologist Mark Widmer said paper wasps were extremely common and built nests under roof tiles and drains along the roof line and bushes.
“You commonly see them flying around, they are a social insect,” he said.
“They’re particularly interested in guarding their young if a nest is nearby.”
He said Mr Powell’s reaction was uncommon and “unlucky”.
“They’re generally considered harmless,” he said.
“Very few people are stung and they are a common wasp.”
Despite this, Mr Widmer recommended removing nests because if people get too close they risk being stung and the wasps are not native to WA.
He said nests should be sprayed from the side with fly spray for three to four seconds when it was almost dark (but do not use a torch as wasps may fly at the light).
After a couple of days, if there is no more activity in the nest it can be destroyed.