How To Survive A Killer Bee Attack....
By Kevin Franklin
ONE OF THE more unnerving experiences these days can be strolling through a meadow.
The pleasant distraction of a bubbling brook's sound or the beauty of some wildflowers can be shattered when your brain registers the sound of bees.
In the old days, before some meddling idiot scientists developed Africanized Bees, the sound of honey bees commanded respect, but not necessarily fear. Now, even approaching a hive can incite the buggers to deadly riot.
But bee researcher Steven Thoenes has some encouraging words for those concerned about attacks. It appears Africanized Bees maintain their deadly assault only for about 100 yards, Thoenes says. If the antagonizing human is moving off in the opposite direction, new bees will not begin attacking. Bees that have already stung someone will follow their victim as far as they can, buzzing in ears, ramming and generally making a nuisance of themselves. However, these bees have no stingers.
Unlike wasp attacks, bee stings are a one-shot deal for the animal. While a bee sting may hurt the attacker, it kills the bee. The stinger rips out of the bee leaving it to slowly bleed to death.
Apparently registering victory at driving off the assailant, the bees leave pursuit to the mortally wounded and go about patrolling the area surrounding the hive for any other takers.
"It doesn't do an Africanized colony any good," says Thoenes, "to continue stinging something they've already driven off. They'll just be loosing more bees."
Thoenes conducted Africanized bee research in Costa Rica as part of a United States Department of Agriculture study and came to his conclusions from that work. Now he runs a company called BeeMaster that sets preemptive Africanized bee traps. Thoenes' goal is to capture any new swarms coming to alluring places like golf courses or schools with lush lawns. Thoenes has also been giving lectures on Africanized Bees and his findings in Costa Rica.
Thoenes cautions that bees have no precise boundary at exactly 100 yards. The hive may vigorously defend a 150-yard radius and a few bees capable of stinging may give chase for a great distance, he says. The best policy is to keep moving as fast at possible until you are no longer being stung.
The bottom line is surviving an Africanized bee attack does not require you to run a full mile at Olympic speeds, according to Thoenes.
Other bee researchers say Thoenes' figures are not conservative enough. "A hundred yards? I'd have to call that a little optimistic," says Justin Schmidt, a research entomologist with the USDA Carl Hayden Bee Research Center. Schmidt and Thoenes worked on the same field study in Costa Rica.
Schmidt said a stirred-up bee aviary gave chase for 600 meters. Even a single hive (what most folks would encounter in the wild) gave heavy pursuit out to 200 or 300 meters.
Nevertheless, Schmidt agrees with Thoenes on the principal that the number of attacking bees diminishes tremendously with distances far less than the half-mile figure often tossed around.
"The risk to life and limb," says Schmidt, "is pretty much over once you're 200 yards away. By then, you're far enough away not to be done in by them."
Barring an allergic reaction, an able adult should be able to withstand 300 or 400 stings, Schmidt says. In the minute or so it takes most people to figure out they're under attack, they could receive anywhere from 50 to 200 stings, Schmidt says.
Clearly, knowing exactly what to do without mulling it over would save a lot of stings, and possibly your life. The formula is simple--run like hell. Diving into a swimming pool or hiding in a bush will only get you stung to death. Once riled, the bees will vigorously patrol their territory for hours stinging anything they encounter.
While running, try to protect your eyes, nose and mouth. Just like G. Gordon Liddy, Africanized bees believe in head shots. Hands pressed over the face with just enough space to see is a good makeshift shield. As long as the bees can be kept from obstructing vision or respiration, a few dozen stings can easily be weathered.
Ironically, the most likely place to find a swarm of Africanized bees is not in some remote, wild corner of Arizona, but in the cities. The availability of flowers and water is much greater in our man made oases than in the surrounding desert. How fitting that our tiny genetic Frankensteins are coming home to roost in neighborhoods.
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