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One man dead after hundreds of stings from Arizona bee swarm

One man dead after hundreds of stings from Arizona bee swarm

One man died and two people required hospital treatment after they were stung “hundreds of times” by swarming bees near Tucson, Arizona this week.

In a statement posted to social media on Thursday, the Northwest fire district said it was called to an incident in which “at least six individuals were stung multiple times”.

“Three patients, believed to have been stung hundreds of times, were transported for or received medical evaluation,” the statement said.

The fire district said one man died. He was not immediately identified.

The fire district also said: “Three of our firefighters were stung multiple times while dispatched on the call. One firefighter, believed to have been stung approximately 60 times, was taken to a local hospital for evaluation. He has since been released. The other two firefighters did not need medical treatment.

“A large open hive, estimated around 100lb, was located in a tree nearby.”

Bee swarms are a relatively common and sometimes dangerous occurrence in Arizona. In 2015, for example, one man survived 500 to 1,000 stings after disturbing a hive. Months later, six people were injured in another swarm.

According to the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, most Arizona swarms involve Africanised honey bees, a cross between African and European bees popularly but erroneously known as killer bees, leaving one hive to start another.

“Swarms are generally docile regardless of type,” the center says, as “the swarm has no resources (brood, queen, food) to protect. They can actually be quite vulnerable during the swarming process, as they are without the protection of a home.

“Africanized honey bees do not fly out in angry swarms to randomly attack unlucky victims. Stinging incidents by Africanised honeybees occur when the actual nest site, not the swarm, is disturbed.”

It also says Africanised honey bees “can become highly defensive in order to protect their hive [and] defensive behaviour can vary from mild to severe.

“A good safety precaution is to maintain at least 100ft, or the width of a four-lane highway, from any African honey bee hive. It is always advisable to exercise caution with respect to all bee activity, whether in managed or feral hives.”

After the fatal incident near Tucson, the Marana police department said: “Bee handlers have killed most of the bees and have removed the hive. Although the area is much safer, there are still some lingering bees.”

Residents were advised to avoid the area.

Bee experts decry the image of “killer bees” in popular culture, as underscored by a 1978 thriller starring Michael Caine, The Swarm.

On its website, the Southern Arizona Beekeepers Association advises: “A person’s chance of running into wild honey bee colonies in the desert south west is higher than other parts of the country. However, the chances of dying from honey bee stings … is several times less than getting struck by lightning.”


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