GAITHERSBURG, Md. - More than 30 Quince Orchard High School students had to be treated after being stung by yellow jackets Thursday morning after a swarm attacked them.
It happened at around 8 a.m. at a shopping center across the street from the school as the students were heading to class.
"It was chaos," said student Nick Brun. "Everyone was running."
Many students were stung multiple times as they ran for cover. Some had no idea where the insects were coming from.
As the yellow jackets swarmed the students, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue swarmed the high school across the street. Fire spokesperson Pete Piringer said 32 were evaluated for their stings. Three of them were transported to the hospital as a precautionary measure.
"Allergic reaction to a bee sting can be a very serious condition, but none of these transports were serious," Piringer said.
Emergency personnel originally reported that the stings were from bees, but later clarified they believed the stings were from yellow jackets.
"This time of year, the colonies are highly aggressive," said bug expert and University of Maryland professor Michael Raupp.
He said yellow jacket hornets can build their nests underground, which can easily catch people off guard.
"They are changing over from production of workers to production of queens," said Raupp. "So right now, that nest is working at a fevered pace. Those workers and those guards are going to be highly agitated, they are going to be very vigilant, and if anything comes and disturbs that nest, they are going to pay a price and I think that is unfortunately what happened to the students today."
He said while both bees and hornets have an important role in our ecosystem, they should not be feared as long as you keep your distance.
"Bees are not going to be interested in stinging you when you see them in your landscape and garden," Raupp said. "It's only when they are protecting that nest and who can blame them for that."
If you do find yourself in a swarm of hornets or bees, experts say the last thing you want to do is start swatting at them. Instead, just run as far away as you can from them. If possible, run through some vegetation or trees, which will confuse them.