Wednesday, September 15, 2010

San Marco, TX: Man survives over 1,200 Bee stings near his home

September 7, 2010
San Marcos Daily Record
Anita Miller

When Lamar LaCaze named the road that leads to his house after his wife, he figured living on Lois Lane made a good case that he was Superman.

After he was nearly killed by a swarm of bees last week, his wife's buying in.

"Anyone who can survive that many bee stings is Superman," Lois LaCaze said Saturday from her husband's bedside at Seton Hospital in Kyle.

Lamar LaCaze, 65, longtime San Marcos barber, was attacked by bees while mowing Aug. 31. Emergency room workers pulled more than 1,200 stingers out of his body and whole bees from his ears, nose, mouth and throat.

The attack came just after he started mowing on the property off FM 150 between IH-35 and Hwy. 21.

"I made one loop and started up a little hill. It wouldn't go, so I took a right. The bees — like that — just flashed up in my face," he said.

He got off his tractor and fell. Intending to get to a water trough and get his head under, he made it "about 25 yards" before being unable to crawl over a fence. "I couldn't stand up. They just keep buzzing me."

LaCaze had his cell phone. He managed to open his eyes enough to call his wife "but it went to voice mail, she was working." Then he tried his son Trey. "It rang six times and I hung up."

Sometime around then Trey got home and had grown concerned about his father's whereabouts. Then his cell phone rang again. "I'm in bees," his father told him.

Trey rushed to the scene and initially searched a different area. When he did find his father he was slumped over the fence. "He was not moving. When I went to pull him out he looked up. His head was black, solid bees. It looked like a bee hive on his head."

Trey threw buckets of water on his father and a neighbor, Rudy Cisneros, came with a fire extinguisher. Lamar's granddaughter called 911 and when Kyle firefighters arrived, Trey noted they "suited up" before spraying the attackers and his father with foam.

Five days after the suicide bombing — bees die once they inject their stinger — Lamar LaCaze was a frightening sight. The swelling had subsided, the family said, but  the area around his eyes was still blackened, one ear looked as if its lobe had exploded, and black bloody spots dotted his face, head, neck and arms.

Saturday was the first day he could really open his eyes, and he coughed intermittently.

Luckily, he was wearing heavy blue jeans and stingers didn't penetrate the starched fabric.

Rushed to Seton by EMS, he was a center of attention.

"It was like you see on TV," his wife recalls, with medical professionals  completely surrounding her husband. When they gave her the jeans they'd cut off of him, "they said be careful getting things out of his pockets — they're full of stingers."

The family was on Saturday anticipating his release from the hospital within days. After that, there will be outpatient followups until his body has completely processed all the bee venom. "It ruined my kidneys sort of. My heart enzymes are bad," he said.

The family figures he encountered the bees around 2 p.m., and that about an hour and a half elapsed before Trey arrived on the scene. "I didn't see one bee. I seen a thousand," LaCaze recalls. "They were relentless."

Each of the family members experienced their own nightmare that day. Lamar LaCaze flatly didn't think he was going to make it. His wife — after a mad dash from San Marcos — thought this was the time she would lose him. His son, on first glance, thought he was already dead.

"There are so many things this venom in your body can cause. We're just pleased he's with us — just happy he's alive," Lois said.

The hive that had streamed out of a hollow tree is still on their property. They want them destroyed, but haven't yet been able to arrange that.

Lois LaCaze was employed at the Hays County Extension Office when the "killer bee" invasion occurred in the 1990s and back then when interest was high, "we had people signed up to go get hives."

No such list exists now. "I'm sure there's somebody out there, and we're going to keep looking," she said.

To confirm whether the swarm was actually Africanized honeybees, or hybrids with European honey bees, or a mix, would mean sending samples to A&M. "You've got to collect them and send them in and that's a dangerous situation," Lois LaCaze said. Still, she's like to try. "The neighbors want to know," she said.

"They're not worth anything, they don't even make much honey," Lamar LaCaze said of the aggressive bees.  "I don't want any one of them to get away. I don't want them to go nowhere else."

He also won't be climbing back on that tractor any time soon. "I don't want to go outside this hospital without one of those bee suits," he said with a chuckle and cough. "They have no mercy," he said of the bees.

Bee attacks typically occur when a hive is swarming, which Africanized bees do much more frequently than European honey bees.  Attacks can be precipitated by loud noise and vibrations like those made by LaCaze's tractor, A&M says, noting that attacks have been triggered by those activities "up to 100 feet or more" from the hive and "pedestrian activity up to 50 feet " away.

Bees attack the victim's head because they are attracted to animal breath, according to A&M. Other attractants include "hair, dark colors, new mown grass, citrus-scented candles and perfume."

A&M has information on bee proofing homes and landscapes and more at

"I've heard about these bees, you know, but I never thought about any of them just attacking like this," Lamar LaCaze says. "I didn't even see them coming. All of a sudden they were just there."

LaCaze has owned and operated Lamar's Barber shop for 38 years. He's been barbering in San Marcos for 46. The shop remains open during his recovery.

Read the rest of the story here.

Entomologist's Comment:

African Honey Bee attacks will continue to occur with increasing frequency. Here are some links with helpful info:

Our African Bee info page

Killer Bees in Orlando during a 6 hour removal process:


University of Florida's African Honey Bee Extension & Education Program

The African Honey Bee FAQ

Frequently asked questions about African honey bees, from FDACS - Division of Plant Industry
Bee Removal information and regulations from University of Florida's African Honey Bee Extension & Education Program

Honey Bee Research & Extension Lab

University of Florida's Honey Bee Research & Extension Lab

Richard Martyniak, M.Sc., Entomologist

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