Killer Bee Experiences
Africanized Honey Bee Attacks
What are some other people's experiences with Africanized honey bees? (Readers' stories of what happened, and how they dealt with attacks)
Pima County, AZ - On my way up to the top ridge of the NE side of ragged top mountain, which is part of the Silverbell mountains in Pima County, AZ, I stepped over a rock about 4-5' in diameter with a cavity area below it. Nearly one second after, I heard one small stone drop on that rock with the typical sound that a rock like that makes, then I heard one bee and then almost instantly afterward, numerous bees.
Having an outdoor occupation, I am used to and have experienced several different types of hornets and realize that they are one of the most dangerous pests in and about wildlands. I ran up the mountain away from the swarming sound to a location approximately 50 yards uphill from the nest (with all the energy I could muster) and I could see them swarming around the lip of the larger rock when I looked back. At that distance, I checked my camelbak and shirt to make sure none were hanging off me and then saw one fly over me, so I quickly moved west down a draw and up on another saddle.
That did it - no more bees. The defensive behavior characteristic I experienced with these bees was more like that of yellow jackets and FAR more aggressive than any typical honeybees I have encountered in the past (we have honey bees but no Africanized bees in Michigan where I work outside most often). I was very fortunate to have not gotten stung, but I believe running immediately after hearing the bees start to get excited allowed for this positive outcome (they can't follow a trail if there is no chemical to follow). I was very happy not to encounter any more hives on my way down. This is the first time I have ever experienced AHBs, and I am now an avid believer that they are indeed a serious outdoor hazard. Regards, Geoff
Joshua Tree - Yesterday i had an AHB encounter. NOT PLEASANT! I've been hiking the Joshua Tree, CA area for two years, no bee troubles before. Halfway up a quite remote corner of the park, in the Coxcomb Mountains, I was attacked. Sitting at the base of a box canyon surveying the terrain to find a good route to the peaks, I noticed a couple of bees acting nicely at this point, just a little curious about me. I left them alone, they left me alone (usually works.) It was steep terrain, hot summer weather and i was loaded down with plenty of water in my pack. Under normal conditions it would have required patient decision making to negotiate the climb. About twenty minutes into the climb though, I noticed the bees hadn't left, and were increasing in numbers. It was very difficult to decide if climbing UP would be any better than climbing DOWN by then.
There was no easy egress. While I paused to think about what to do next, the numbers of bees increased and I got my first sting. I was anxiously sweating, thirsty and nervous about the situation. There was no way to move quickly away from the bees - the rocks were unforgiving in either direction, and i had started gently flailing my walking stick just to keep them away from my head. They stayed away, but wouldn't go away. I was anxious about water at that point, I couldn't stop moving the walking stick because the bees would go straight for my head, and it requires two hands to get water out of my back pack. I sort of snapped at that point, decided DOWN was the only escape and made for it. As long as I was moving quickly enough, the bees would mostly stay behind me. BUT if I took more than a split second to evaluate which difficult jagged rock I should maneuver over, the bees would hit me.
I moved down that canyon in a way that I would never
deliberately risk otherwise. Normally, I steer clear of cat-claw bushes, but
I just took the scratches, somehow better than slowing down for the bees. Once
I hit the wash system, the bees let up a little, but a few stayed near me for
about half a mile. All in all, I only got three stings. I'm not at all deterred
about hiking or exploring off trail, but I WILL investigate how to defend against
this situation. It was extremely dangerous, even without being highly allergic
to the stings. I stayed calm for as long as I could, and am certain I did not
disturb a nest - THEY'RE JUST AGGRESSIVE, it was an unprovoked attack.
Joshua Tree - Two days ago, my wife and I went out for a short hike near a cabin we were staying in near the west entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.
The wildflowers were in bloom and the weather was perfect at around 70 degrees. We headed for a rock outcropping and then began climbing up some large boulders. We got about thirty feet up and I heard a buzzing sound ahead. Then my wife noticed a bee buzzing around her head. Soon a swarm of hundreds of bees surrounded us, especially attacking our heads. My wife couldn't get them out of her hair. We did not have extra clothing to swat them with, only sunglasses and a camera. I don't know how we got down the boulders, but we did, trying to get away from the attacking bees. It seemed like the more we tried to fend them off, the more joined the swarm. I left my camera behind and we ran for the nearest house, about a hundred yards away. I saw a hose and turned on the water. Fortunately it worked, so I doused my wife and I with water. They were still swarming and crawling all over us, but I kept spraying us both with water and for the next ten minutes had to shoot water in the air over us until they finally went away. We were stung 25 or 30 times each, but it would have been much worse if we had not found the hose.
We took most of the stingers out and called the local medical center but got little response, so we went to the drug store in Yucca Valley and the pharmacist recommended benadryl creme. We stopped by the ranger station yesterday on the way home and the ranger said that they were probably the Africanized "killer" bees (they were slightly smaller than normall honey bees). She did not seem too alarmed since we looked ok and they had attacked people only infrequently over the past few years. We are now recovering, but from now on, we will stick to the trails.
On the 13th of June my boyfriend and I were moving out of our old house in Arizona. As my boyfriend went to get something from the back of the shed, he noticed a couple of bees around him. He thought they were just doing their own thing but as he picked up a box he was covered in bees - there was a swarm in the box.
He screamed so I ran to see what was going on. He was yelling and screaming trying to get the bees off him. His whole head and face were covered in bees. I was so scared I didn’t know what to do. He brushed as many bees off of his face as he could and said to me that they were on me as well. That's when I looked at my legs and they were covered in bees.
Our neighbour saw what was going on and got his hose and tried to wash them off. We ran inside and got in the shower and staid in there for at least 45 min. We then looked out the window and my boyfriend's box was still covered in bees. We called 911 and they came over and we were taken away in a ambulance, still covered in stingers. One week later we moved. I am still shocked about the incident thinking it could have been worse, but our neighbour saved the day.
Sam and Matisse
We are in Bluffton, SC and I think my husband was stung by killer bees yesterday, July 3. He came in and shouted "I've been stung!" I immediately ran to get my tea tree oil and proceeded to pour it onto his legs and rub it on his bites. He had been trimming the grass, edging the house, and they were in a railroad tie we used as a border. He said he did not hear them or notice them because he was paying attention to the machine. When he did look down, they was a cloud of bees around his legs.
He ran quickly and got inside. He had over 30
bites, maybe as many as 50 or more. They are small bees and really quick. He
said it seemed they were biting him over and over. Of course, that is becasue
there were so many of them. He never took anything for pain or any benadryl or
anything. He said it still stung some, but not bad. When he said that, I put
some Mela-gel from Melaleuca, Inc. on too. It is a higher grade of tea tree oil.
He did not go to the hospital or anything, because we thought they
were small yellow jackets. We have never seen killer bees, but they looked like
the pics I have seen on the net today. Thanks,
I have put the tea tree oil on other bee stings and it makes the pain go away. My husband says he still feels the stings some today. Is there something else he should do?
See a doctor.
I’m a truck driver and get my exercise by walking / hiking around and exploring the areas I stop in. I’ve always been a nature / wildlife nut and probably watch more Animal Planet than anyone else. Anyways I was in Shreveport, Louisiana this week at the Pilot Truck stop and had 12 hours to kill. I decided to go for a hike and look for snakes or other reptiles. At the corner of Westport and 70th streets I found a trail going into the woods and about a mile into the woods I did find my snake, a nice six footer, but shortly after that I started getting hit in the head by a bug.
I swatted at it a few times but never made contact then it landed on my head and I knocked it off and realized it was a bee. I ran into the woods a bit to get out of the area and when I stopped I started getting hit in the chest by another one that kept bumping into my chest and coming back, right about then another one came in and started bouncing off my arm.
It was then that I realized what was going on they were killer bees warning me to keep away. I ran out of there and when I got back to my truck I got on the internet and sure enough it was one of the three counties (parishes) in Louisiana with killer bees. If it wasn’t for watching specials about them on the discovery channel I surely would’ve induced a full attack.
Vicinity of Wickenburg, Arizona - I got on your site to learn more about killer bees. This past Saturday, Oct. 14, I was quail hunting 30 miles north of Wickenburg, Arizona with my 12 year old grandson.
One bee attacked my left ear. I swatted it away not even thinking it was a bee. Two steps later we were swarmed by hundreds of bees. We ran to my truck which was about 100 yards away and got into the truck with about 200 bees. I dropped my keys outside the truck and could not start the truck. We were trapped inside fighting for our lives killing bees. This went on for about 30 minutes and we were near exhaustion from the heat and the stings.
A man saw our fix and bailed out of his truck, scooped up my keys, I opened the door letting in another 50 to 75 bees. Got the truck started and started to the hospital in Wickenburg. I am 61 and I did not think I was going to make it and my grandson was in shock. We got treated in the emergency room. I was very short of breath and did not think I would make it. They picked the bee stingers out with tweezers and I got very ill shortly thereafter. Got some oxygen on and recovered pretty quickly.
They took 67 stingers out of my arms and face, unknown amount of stings on my head. My grandson had 47 stings not counting his head. I drove us home OK but still feel a little shaky today.
I have never seen an animal or insect attack with such determination to kill its prey. I have hunted all of my life in the desert and high country and still do not believe what happened to us. We almost died.
Tom - Peoria, Arizona
I am a landscape contractor in the Houston, Texas area. While mowing a yard
on 5/23/2007 one of my crew encountered a hive of Africanized honey bees while
mowing. He thought he ran over a nest - before he knew what was going on he had
been stung 10 or more times. We had to leave the lawn equipment behind going
to the local store to get raid wasp and bee spray, upon returning we found our
mower covered with hundreds of bees as soon as we were approx 30 ft from the
mower they started swarming us again. We received 20 or more new stings but were
able to spray and kill instantly what was holding our mower hostage. We left
and confirmed with a local agency that they were AHB'S and had to take several
vicodin as well as topical numbing agents that night for the pain.... ice helps
with the swelling. Thanks, James Berger
Killer Bees in the desert (Blythe, CA area)
My boyfriend and I went on one of our weekend rock hounding trips the weekend of May 27th, 2007. We went to a BLM wilderness area in the Palen Mountains near Blythe CA looking for quartz. We had our small 4X4 SUV and made it out there no problem. We got to the site around 9am and proceeded to pull out our shovels, rock picks, screens, and a wash bucket with water to clean our specimens. It was probably about 80 degrees at this point but we had a nice breeze being on top of the mountain.
As we started digging on the mountain we started getting bothered by one or two bees every few minutes flying around our heads and ankles. We didn’t think anything of it at first, after all we were in the desert and bees are to be expected from time to time. We swatted them away and eventually we were left alone for a few more minutes. So we continued on digging for about an hour when I turned around and looked over to our SUV. I noticed a couple hundred bees flying around it. I called out to my boyfriend and told him that the bees were inside the vehicle and there was no way we were going to get in there and leave with that many inside. We didn’t think it would be a bad idea to leave the windows and doors open. We also didn’t know what they wanted so badly in our car.
We did have a cooler full of cold water and a few iced tea drinks but all were sealed. As we tried to get some of our stuff out of the vehicle my boyfriend got stung. Luckily he is not allergic and only got stung once but the others were trying to get on the both of us. We spent about two hours trying to keep the bees away from each other. If we didn’t continuously move we would’ve been attacked on a much higher scale for sure. This constant fight left us exhausted, sunburned, and confused on what to do at this point in time. We decided to gather up some wood and make a fire on the side of the vehicle to smoke them out. The fire did not work.
We did notice that we had left our Starbucks coffees in the vehicle. Both coffees were half full. The bees were trying to get into the cups! So my boyfriend grabbed some of his clothes from the vehicle with his shovel handle so he could bundle himself up. He stuck on long pants, a sweatshirt, and pulled his socks over his pants to be sure the bees wouldn’t sting him anymore. We tried to get as much of our personal belongings OUT of the truck. We specifically wanted our cell phones so we could call someone to find out what to do. In the meantime my boyfriend dumped out the coffee cups both cups were completely filled with bees. Dead bees! I had also brought a bottle of OFF bug spray in which we started looking for... we had a hard time finding it.
We decided we were going to call 911 since we had a cell phone signal and see if there was something we could do to get the bees out. 911 was pretty much a joke. They transferred my boyfriend over to Terminix Pest Control, which was closed! We were stranded in the desert and didn’t know what to do for our situation.
We called 911 back telling them Terminix was closed, my boyfriend had already been stung, and the bees were gathering in greater numbers. 911 decided to transfer us over to the Blythe area Fire Department.
At this point we had thousands of bees swarming our vehicle. We walked halfway down the mountain to get away from them while we tried talking to the Blythe FD. Luckily we had GPS coordinates to give them for our location. They didn’t really seem to know what to do either. They told us they would send a fire truck out! They would have never made it out into this area with a fire truck. The sand was deep and we were up a somewhat steep mountain. We told them they would need a 4x4 vehicle. So we waited for them on top of this mountain.
20-30 minutes later we still don’t see any sight of the fire department coming so we decided to try to do something ourselves. We finally found the OFF bug spray I had. My boyfriend proceeded to dump out anything that would be an attraction to the bees. I stayed halfway down the hill and tried to stay calm while still fighting off a bee or two.
About a half hour later I walked back up the mountain and my boyfriend had been spraying the vehicle and the bees with the OFF bug spray. He said the bees seemed to not like it much. He also decided to turn on the vehicle in which he said the bees seemed to not like that either. He said he got most of them out of the truck but was sure there were some left in our bags and whatnot. After all, there were so many bees in there they did get into all the nooks and crannies. So we decided to not wait for the fire department and proceeded to turn around and drive hoping all the bees would eventually fly out the window. As we are driving halfway out of the wilderness area the fire department calls us back and asks us if the sheriff had called us yet. We told them they had not. We also told them we had just gotten rid most of the bees and to not bother coming to help us. At this point we had waited over an hour for any response to our situation. I guess that’s how it is in the desert for emergencies. Oh well.
Point of the story is: we left the windows and doors open in the middle of the desert not realizing that it could’ve been a potential catastrophe. We should not have brought our coffees with us either. Both of us could’ve died from the bees and/or exhaustion from fighting them away. The sun was HOT and we were many miles from civilization. Africanized bees are not nice. We did nothing to provoke them yet they still attacked us. My suggestion to anyone going rock hounding or sightseeing in the desert is to never leave your vehicle open. It doesn’t matter if it’s only a crack of a window DO NOT LEAVE IT OPEN! Be sure to bring at least a gallon of water per person, some bug spray, bee spray, a GPS, and your cell phone with you just in case. This was by far one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had and I hope that my story can help others out should they ever encounter such a thing.
Also, if anyone has any other suggestions on how to keep bees away I would love to hear about it. Thanks, Melissa
- How can I avoid an encounter with unfriendly Africanized honey bees?
- How can I reduce the chance Africanized honey bees will attack me if they are around me?
- How can I escape an attack if I am attacked by Africanized honey bees?
- Facts about Africanized honey bees
- Readers' stories of killer
Have you had a problem with Africanized honey bees? Send us your story.
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