A Cambodian man died after being stung by a swarm of hornets as he tried to remove a pair of nests at the top of a structure containing the ashes of his ancestors, a police officer said Friday.

Tit Sovanna, a 47-year-old teacher in Svay Rieng province in southeastern Cambodia, died Wednesday shortly after being stung all over his body, said So Sikhan, a district police chief.

The man had climbed the stupa, or Buddhist reliquary, using a stick to try to knock down two nests so his relatives could organize a ceremony for the ancestors as part of a traditional ritual known as Festival for the Dead.

CountryWatch: Cambodia

The festival, a 15-day event, is being observed across Cambodia until Sept. 22. During this period, Cambodians pray and make offerings of food to the souls of their ancestors. Tit Sovanna's relatives had been unable for years to hold the ritual at the stupa, located in the his back yard, because they were afraid of the hornets, So Sikhan said.

Svay Rieng province is 70 miles southeast of the capital, Phnom Penh.