Saturday, August 7, 2010

7 August 2010: 3 Pinellas County Tree Surgeons stung by African Honey Bees

An arborist suffered hundreds of bee stings in Pinellas County, Fla., last Saturday, and is fortunate to be alive. This is a story that is repeated more and more often, as African ( Killer ) honey bees increase their numbers throughout the state. It's interesting for us, as Entomologists teaching about this defensive stinging insect, because we see attitudes changing in terms of location and time.

When I give talks to tree folks in North Florida, most of the guys (girls too, but I speak in the familiar inclusive way here), tell me that honey bees cause them little if any problems. "They buzz around a little, and a can of wasp spray will take care of them", is a common statement. Well, things-are-a-changin' as this story shows. African bees will attack en-masse, and that can of wasp-freeze will only set them off even more. Oh, and unless that arborist has a pest control license, it's illegal for him (or her) to spray pesticide. That should perk the ears of your insurance company if a sting event occurs on your property!

Excerpt from 10 Connect breaking news story. We were on scene and will report later

Safety Harbor -- A group of tree trimmers were attacked Saturday afternoon after cutting down a branch with an Africanized, or what many refer to as a "killer", bee colony inside.

It happened in the front yard of a home off 3rd Street South in Safety Harbor.

The worker near the top of the tree was stung at least 150 times, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Two other workers were also stung trying to help him reach the ground and get away from the attacking bees.

A fourth tree trimmer was not hurt.

The three injured workers were taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries, according to the sheriff's office.

A beekeeper on scene estimates there were around 50,000 bees in the tree.

10News has learned the names of the three men taken to Mease Countryside Hospital are Ralph St. Peter of Hudson, Anthony Cimillo of Holiday, and Michael Foster of Weeki Wachee.

St. Peter will be kept overnight, while Cimillo and Foster have been released.

You'll hear from them tonight on 10News at 11.
Adam Freeman, 10 News

And the August 8, TBO report excerpt:

He had bees on his arms, legs, face, nose and ears. And when Ralph St. Peter opened his mouth to scream, the bees piled in his mouth. Bees went up his shorts and down his shirt.

"My body was totally encased in bees," St. Peter said, recounting co-workers' description. "You couldn't actually see my body. You just saw the frame of my body."

St. Peter was discharged from Mease Countryside Hospital on Sunday, a day after being stung by more than 500 Africanized honeybees. He still has some pain and discomfort, but he'll return Monday to cut down the oak where the bees had a hive.

"I'd like to take a couple of days off, but I can't afford it," St. Peter said. "If times were a little better, I'd take a day or two off. But it's not."

The Weeki Wachee man was working with a crew Saturday afternoon cutting down three trees at a Safety Harbor home.

A crew leader with Johnson Lawn and Landscape of Tarpon Springs, St. Peter was cutting down a limb when a swarm of Africanized honeybees attacked him.

He tried to repel down the tree, but the rope got stuck on some limbs. The bees came from a hollow log that was 8 feet long and 24 inches wide.

Two of St. Peter's co-workers ran off, but Mike Foster stayed to help. Foster got a knife to St. Peter, who was able to cut the rope and free himself after being stuck in the tree for two to three minutes. Foster was stung 75 times on his hands while trying to get the bees off him, St. Peter said.

"(Today) it feels like I had a run in with a whole bunch of jellyfish," St. Peter said Sunday. "That's how it feels today. Yesterday, it was downright terrible."

St. Peter, 44, has been in the tree business for 30 years and has been a certified arborist for 20 years. He has been stung in the past but has never faced anything like he experienced Saturday.

A domestic honeybee will send two or three bees to attack a person, and the rest of the bees will take off with the queen, St. Peter said. Saturday, the Africanized honeybees came as a swarm.

St. Peter said a professional exterminator was hired to get rid of the bees, so he feels confident returning to finish the job. (yes, this should have been done BEFORE tree work--RMM)

In the future, St. Peter said he'll be cautious when working a hollow tree.

"It definitely won't happen again," St. Peter said.

Reporter José Patiño Girona can be reached at (813) 259-7659.

Nothing to take lightly folks.

Richard Martyniak

No comments:

Post a Comment