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Number of Africanized bee attacks remains steady in Crossroads (w/video)

By Sara Sneath
Aug. 17, 2014 at 6 p.m.


Avoiding attacks

If a hive or bees are spotted, assume it contains Africanized honeybees and leave the area.

Vibrations from lawn mowers have been the cause of more than one attack. Do not mow in an area where a hive has been spotted until a beekeeper has removed the threat.

Supervisors should know the areas where Africanized honeybees might be and make sure employees stay alert and look for bees.

SOURCE: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Asa E. Logan was clearing trees on his property, about 5 miles southeast of Victoria, when he was attacked by honeybees.

"It was just a black cloud coming down on top of me," he said.

Logan attempted to flee, jumping in his truck and driving off, but the bees followed him into the truck cab. There were so many bees on his face that he had difficulty seeing where he was going.

Logan's son was fishing nearby and saw his father under attack. As Logan drove, he sprayed Off on bees swarming in the cab of his truck as his son followed close behind.

It's not known how many bees stung Logan that day about 10 years ago, but as he drove, he knew he was about to pass out. Logan bailed from his truck. His son grabbed him and rushed him to the hospital. During the ride, Logan lost consciousness.

He likely was attacked by Africanized bees, which have slowly migrated north from Brazil and showed up in South Texas in the '90s. Since then, two or three bee attacks a year, like Logan's, have been reported in Victoria. Though Africanized bees appear to have extended their territory - they were found in Colorado this year, their threat to the Crossroads has not grown since their arrival. Throughout the years, the more aggressive bee breed has been watered down through breeding with their European counterparts, Victoria County AgriLife Extension agent Peter McGuill said.

"You get that crossing of the two, and it's actually gotten a little bit better from the time when the Africanized bees first came in, and they were pretty much straight Africanized and extremely aggressive," McGuill said.

The hybridization of Africanized and European honeybees has been an added concern for beekeepers already plagued by the collapse of bee colonies nationwide.

"Your beekeepers are the ones that probably have seen the biggest influence from (Africanization) because they have to purchase their queens, and they have to replace them every so often with certified European honeybees," McGuill said.

The number of bee attacks in Victoria has been pretty consistent during the past several years.

"Over last 10 years at least, they've just become part of life in South Texas," McGuill said.

The Victoria Fire Department has responded to two bee incidents since October 2013, including the bee attack at Texas Port Recycling on Aug. 5 that sent a 12-year-old boy and 60-year-old man to the hospital. Figures for previous years were not available because of a change in the fire department's record-keeping software.

The fire department carries three or four bee suits on its brush truck, which is sent out to bee calls, said Assistant Fire Chief Tracy Fox. The truck also carries foam, a detergent like substance that, in addition to its role in helping to extinguish fires, also kills bees.

"In my experience, a lot of bee attacks are revolved around somebody mowing or using some kind of equipment that makes noise or vibration," Fox said.

While European honeybees also are sensitive to the sounds and vibrations from yard equipment, Africanized bees are more likely to attack, McGuill said.

About half the bee calls Jeff Lowe, the owner of Pest Pros, responds to are for hives that appear Africanized, he said. While the slight size difference between Africanized and European honeybees is not visible to the naked eye, the behavioral difference is quite evident.

European bees are not aggressive and rarely ever sting, Lowe said.

"We got to have bees to eat. Without bees you can't have food," Lowe said. "The reason people are scared of bees, though, is they're aggressive now."

Fully recovered from his attack 10 years ago, Logan, 80, of Victoria County, still carries Benadryl with him just in case he is stung again.

"I realize you have to have bees to pollinate," he said. "But I tell you what, they are aggressive little guys."

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