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Man stung in Victoria County; Africanized bees suspected

By BY J.R. ORTEGA - JRORTEGA@VICAD.COM
June 6, 2012 at 1:06 a.m.

Don Smith shows one of 12 bee stings he says he received on his arm and head after he was attacked by a swarm of Africanized bees near his home in Crescent Valley.

PROTECT YOURSELF FROM BEE ATTACKS

• Be aware of your surroundings.

• Do not make loud vibrations or high-pitched noises in areas known for bees.

• Do no swat bees, swatting releases a pheromone that attracts other bees.

• Run as far away as possible, this will minimize the amount of stings.

• Never try to get rid of a colony without the help of a professional.

SOURCE: Kevin Runge, Pest Solutions in Victoria

CRESCENT VALLEY - Nothing had been out of the ordinary about Don Smith's Wednesday morning routine.

The 73-year-old walked from his home in Crescent Valley to a family member's vacant house across the street to feed some stray cats.

The last thing on his mind was being stung repeatedly by what he claims were Africanized bees.

"How does anyone know if there were Africanized?" Smith asked, standing at the property where he was stung in the 300 block on Matchett Road. "You just run."

Rolling up his left sleeve, Smith ran his fingers across a red and raised patch on his forearm. A hole the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen sat embedded in the middle of the swollen patch.

"I pulled that stinger out," he said. He then bows down to show several other stings toward the back of his balding head. In all, Smith said he was stung about 12 times, but is doing fine.

An increase in bee attacks in the Crossroads is not uncommon this time of year. The Advocate reported several bee attacks during the summers of 2010 and 2011, including one in September 2009, which killed a 74-year-old Tivoli man on a riding mower.

Smith wants to prevent something like that from happening ever again.

Kevin Runge, president and owner of Pest Solutions, said his business receives more calls during the summer involving bees than during any other time of the year. This tends to happen because flowers are blooming and bees are pollinating and forming their colonies, he said.

Determining whether the bees that stung Smith were Africanized is harder than most realize, he said.

About 50 bees need to be collected and then sent to a lab for identification. There are no defining features, other than Africanized bees tend to be aggressive, even when minimally disturbed.

For Smith, that was as simple as trying to open a jammed door.

"If I had remembered I had a bent nail blocking the door, I wouldn't have been stung," he said. "We wouldn't have ever known."

Africanized bees tend to colonize in abandoned, overgrown areas, like where Smith was stung, Runge said.

Runge suggests running away as fast as possible, and whatever you do, do not swat.

"It can get dangerous fast," Runge said.

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