September 3, 2010
By Neil Clarkson
A fire marshal has described the harrowing sight that greeted firefighters called to save three horses under attack from bees.
"These horses were dying right in front of their eyes and there was nothing they could do about it."
Firefighters sprayed the swarm with a mix of foam and water, but it came too late to save two of the horses, who were covered in thousands of stings.
Fire Marshal Charlie Cook, of the Central Yavapai Fire District, in Prescott Valley, Arizona, described to Horsetalk how firefighters responded to the call on Monday.
Cook said the call came in around 4pm of three horses under attack from a bee swarm at Coyote Springs, on the fringe of Prescott Valley.
The fire station was just six or seven minutes away, but it was too late for the horses.
"When we got to the scene, thousands and thousands of bees were attacking these three horses.
"One of the firefighters said it was one of the worst calls he had ever been on. These horses were dying right in front of their eyes and there was nothing they could do about it."
Cook said huge welts were already visible on the horses when the fire crews arrived.
Firefighters went through 1500 gallons of water which was sprayed on the bees in a mixture with foam. The combination suffocates bees, he says.
A vet called to the scene euthanised two of the horses. A third was saved, but Cook said today he was uncertain how it was faring.
There were around 100 horses on the property, but the bees had only attacked three new horses introduced to the property.
"The bees never attacked the others," he said. "They are obviously territorial in a certain kind of way. The bees obviously knew they were new horses."
Cook said the owner of the property "knew there had been bees living in the walls of the barn for several years, but they had never caused a problem." (see my comments below-RMM)
A beekeeper was called and the walls were stripped to reveal a number of hives, the largest standing about 1.6 metres tall, 60 centimetres wide and about 12 centimetres deep.
Cook said the lesson to be learned was to call a beekeeper early when bees set up hives in an inappropriate place.
For a small fee the beekeepers will, where appropriate, relocate the bees to a more suitable environment, where they can be kept for their honey or to pollinate plants.
He said once the bees become a nuisance and fire crews are called, there is little choice but to kill them for safety reasons.
Cook noted there had been a lot of bee-related calls in Arizona this year.
See the rest of the story here:
Reading the fire chief's description of this tragic sting event sends chills through me, as we've encountered similar situations, and in most cases, could have been prevented with proper vigilance and action.
Why the owner of the horse facility would knowingly leave active honey bee colonies in a working barn leaves me scratching my head, AND, this is in KILLER BEE territory!! (I normally don't use the term "killer bee" alone, but in this case, I think it's warranted).
I encounter this attitude daily here in Florida, where we have an active and growing KILLER BEE population. We are seeing them move into Florida's prime horse country, near Ocala.( Check this blog post out from just last week, right near horse operations).
Clients often believe that since Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been affecting honey bee populations here in the U.S. , any wild honey bee colony found should be left alone, in order to boost bee populations. While it's true, CCD has reduced bee populations, the affected bees are only in managed bee operations, those kept by beekeepers, from huge commercial operations down to hobby beekeepers.
Feral (wild) bee populations are not affected by CCD, and are actually exploding here in Florida.
This is so important, let's see it again: Feral bee populations are not affected by CCD, and are exploding here in Florida.
Why such the increase? KILLER BEES! Yes, African Honey Bees are a vigorous race of bees, well suited for life in the subtropical clime we find here in Florida. And, they likely have evolved with pathogens & pests that most researchers suspect are a probable cause of CCD. So, it's natural that this vigorous, well adapted bee would do very well in Florida.
So it begs the question. Why would one leave a feral bee colony in a building that houses people, pets or animals?
I think it's largely due to ignorance, and this ongoing belief, strongly held by some, that bees are naturally gentle, and only sting when provoked. So, it's up to the experts to educate the public, especially those that are at greater risk, including equine operations, about the dangers of these 'new breed' of bees. African Bee infestations can be managed properly, greatly reducing the chances of a sting event, but it takes a new attitude, and working with stinging insect specialists. Beekeepers and standard pest control operators are ill-equipped to control these infestations. (Why not? see our post)
We are educating citizens, companies, utilities, firefighters, police and any interested group about the African Honey Bee and issues surrounding it. Our entomologists give presentations and offer consultations to help you manage this threat and we have specialists that remedy infestations daily. Give us a call at 800.343.5317, send us an email, or visit our website to schedule a presentation or for more info and help.
Richard Martyniak, M.Sc. Entomologist
University of Florida's African Honey Bee Extension & Education Program