Austin, TX – In what is described as the worst bee attack of the year in the state, an astounding swarm of 125,000 aggressive Africanized bees (a.k.a killer bees) stung a man about 300 times yesterday at a warehouse in Pflugerville, Texas, an Austin suburb.
The victim of the bee attack is in stable condition at a local hospital.
The bees swarmed the worker when he tried to move a wooden cabinet that, unbeknownst to him, had a hive inside, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Bees generally attack to protect their hive. To make matters more dangerous, they apparently leave a pheromone on the skin which attracts other bees, meaning that one sting can lead to hundreds of follow-on attacks.
Texas authorities said that “wetter weather that has eased the drought also has produced more food for bees, including the Africanized strains that have grown more prevalent in Texas since moving here decades ago.”
A Texas entomologist added that the Africanized bees have interbred with the more docile European honeybees, but the aggressive trait has carried over into the hybrid variety.
According to the Houston Beekeepers website, the term “killer bee” is media shorthand. The website acknowledges that the African honeybee is more aggressive than its European counterpart but that “deaths from their stings are very rare” and that “your odds of being struck by lightning are greater.”
The site advises to stay away from the bees’ crib at all times:
“It is unlikely that you will ever be stung by bees unless you disturb the bees’ hive. If you are stung, the best advise is to run away as fast as you can, until you get away from the bees.”
Or, as the Texas entomologist remarked about the warehouse attack: “If somebody was trying to move your house to a different location while you’re in it, you would probably be mad, too.”
African honeybees have been tracked in the US since 1990.
[Image credit: Jeffery W. Lotz]