Swarm of thousands of bees kills man, injures another

Published: Oct. 8, 2014 at 7:47 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:22 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - One person is dead and several others are recovering from bee stings after a huge swarm of about 300,000 bees attacked landscapers working outside a home in Douglas.

Firefighters got the call for help at around 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday.  Crews responded to a home in the 1700 block of 21st Street to find several people stung by bees. At least two of the victims had to be taken to the hospital.

A 32-year-old landscaper went into cardiac arrest after he was stung hundreds of times, according to witnesses at the scene.

Douglas Fire Chief Mario Novoa said a total of seven people were stung.  Four were landscapers with a group called Douglas ARC, which works with citizens who have developmental disabilities, and put them to work on landscaping projects around town, said Novoa.

A neighbor who came out to help, the exterminator, and one firefighter also suffered bee stings.

Novoa said the landscapers were in the yard and were attacked as soon as they turned on the the lawnmower.

"Apparently one of the workers was very close to the bees, the bees were located in the eaves of the home, just three feet away," said Novoa.

Jesus Corella with Southwest Exterminating was also working nearby, when he got the call for help.

Corella said he was able to dismantle the massive hive with help from firefighters.  They used foam and pesticide to attack the bees.

"It was massive, I mean it was probably a good two feet wide by six feet long, stuck right in the rafters of the eaves, in between the ceiling and attic, I guess."

Corella believed the hive was there for about ten years.

"Old honeycomb, brownish and colored," said Corella.

He said the honeycomb was so compressed, it was out-growing the hive so the bees actually started building another hive about ten feet away.

Corella described the swarm as very aggressive.

"They were already dropping down at me even before I started approaching it, that was before I started spraying, they were dive bombing me and that's a sign to back off, back way off," said Corella.

Novoa said firefighters were used to responding to bee calls, but this one was different.

"We have one, two, three, even four calls a week, sometimes more.  We're used to that, we even have suits in our fire trucks so we're ready.  However, nothing of this magnitude. We've never, ever experienced anything of this magnitude," said Novoa.

Corella said he had to break down the ceiling of the home inside, to get to the hive.  The homeowner, a 90-year-old man, evacuated the premises and was staying with relatives on Tuesday night.

Firefighters cordoned off four blocks of the street and asked neighbors to keep pets inside while attacking the hive.

The home is still blocked off by caution tape.  Firefighters want residents in the area to watch out for aggressive bees in the area on Wednesday, as they might be looking for  hive, and not be able to find one.

Exterminators said property owners should call for help in removing a hive as soon as they saw a swarm of bees.  Postponing the removal of a hive could lead to situations like this one, which resulted in huge hives, and hundreds of thousands of bees in one area.

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