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#1
Old 07-10-2002, 03:58 PM
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Killer Bees: Do they wait above water??

Hi. I just posed this question to Cecil. If any of you have any ideas, please share!

Dear Cecil,

I love your column. This seems a question only you, or a bee expert, can answer. And I don't know any bee experts. A particular thing about killer bees strikes me as oddly terrifying: According to several features, internet warnings, etc. about killer bees, jumping into water to escape them doesn't work because the bees wait for you to come up for air. But none of these "sources" explains how this is known, or whether the bees would wait indefinitely (I'm thinking of hypothetical situations here, where someone actually has a straw on them and tries to wait them out underwater!). Please help me answer these burning questions. Do killer bees really wait for you? How long will they wait? And does this suggest some collective intelligence on their part (adding to the nightmare potential)?

Feel free to edit this submission at will, or only answer the part(s) you are interested in. Just please help me!

Sincerely,

Scott Patterson
Austin, Texas
#2
Old 07-10-2002, 06:29 PM
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Well, it's "known" that bees will wait for you to come up because people who have tried that have gotten stung when they did come up.

The thing is, if you jump in the water to elude the bees you're probably still pretty close to the hive, so there will be a lot of agitated bees still flying around. If you come up nearby they will probably find you; and most people can't swim fast enough to put enough distance between them and the hive.

The bees are not so much "waiting" for you to come up (they certainly don't "know" you need to come up for air), they just continue to search the area of recent disturbance. Their behavior does not imply intelligence or foresight.

Africanized bees can remain agitated for many hours after disturbance, so you better be prepared to breathe through that straw a long time.

The first Africanized bee fatality in Panama was one of two fisherman who was unfortunate enough to bump into a lakeshore hive. They both dove into the lake, but the bees stung them when they came up. IIRC, the guy who died had a heart attack and drowned.

Here's a good account of a bee attack on the water: http://pages.prodigy.net/anaconda/bees.htm
#3
Old 07-11-2002, 12:55 AM
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From The WORST-CASE SCENARIO Survival Handbook:

HOW TO ESCAPE FROM KILLER BEES

...

5. Do not jump into a swimming pool or other body of water - the bees are likely to be waiting for you when you surface.

So, the answer to your topic is, yes. According to the WCSSH. About the rest of it, I dunno. Colibri makes good sense to me.
#4
Old 07-11-2002, 08:15 AM
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Being subject to a recent bee attack (got stung 8 thimes), I'd say that they will follow you some distance from the hive - at least 50-60 ft and still sting. So typo mna we now know not to jump into water unless we have scuba equipment but how do you escape
#5
Old 07-11-2002, 11:33 AM
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Thanks for the info so far. The link that Colibri provided is the best I've read yet. Lots of good information there (and an interesting story).

I guess it's common sense... I just get creeped out by the image of a swarm of bees waiting above water for their "prey"... But I guess it's not like they calmly land on the water and wait for you, or anything.. They just stay angry and keep swarming.
#6
Old 07-11-2002, 01:37 PM
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What if you swim as far as posible away under the water? Will the bees track you, or be waiting above the place you jumped in?
#7
Old 07-11-2002, 02:00 PM
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I'd still guess it would be better to jump in than keep running?

Government must have done a study on this somewhere ...
#8
Old 07-11-2002, 04:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Pythagoras
What if you swim as far as posible away under the water? Will the bees track you, or be waiting above the place you jumped in?
That might work, if you are a strong underwater swimmer and have lots of room to get away. They bees probably won't be able to "track" you when you are underwater. However, many people won't be able to swim that far underwater. And you definitely don't want to try this in a small pond.

In most circumstances, the best strategy is to run away as fast and as far as you can.






.
#9
Old 07-11-2002, 05:13 PM
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I was inspired to do more research. Still no hard facts about how the bees wait for you, but the best explaination is that they stay ravenous for hours, even days, after being made angry, and patrol the area looking for things to attack. So if you hide underwater, as soon as you come up at least some of them will find you (and will attract the rest of the swarm), so you're right back where you started.

One other upsetting tidbit I read is that you are likely to be stung 50-100 times before you can even orient yourself and figure out where the attack is coming from. Also, a swarm can have thousands of bees (more than a few hundred stings can trigger a fatal reaction)

Found another fascinating first-hand account of a bee attack endured by a cyclist in Mexico:
http://cyclingscholar.com/bees.html
#10
Old 07-11-2002, 11:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by k2dave
Being subject to a recent bee attack (got stung 8 thimes), I'd say that they will follow you some distance from the hive - at least 50-60 ft and still sting. So typo mna we now know not to jump into water unless we have scuba equipment but how do you escape
The rest of the WORST-CASE SCENARIO Survival Handbook entry:

1. If bees begin flying around and/or stinging you, do not freeze. Run away; swatting at the bees only makes them angrier.

2. Get indoors as fast as you can.

3. If no shelter is available, run through bushes or high weeds. This will help give you cover.

4. If a bee stings you, it will leave its stinger in your skin. Remove the stinger by raking your fingernail across it in a sideways motion. Do not pinch or pull the stinger out - this may squeeze more venom from the stinger into your body. Do not let stingers remain in the skin, because venom can continue to pump into the body for up to ten minutes.
#11
Old 07-12-2002, 12:28 AM
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So, how fast can bees fly? Can we outrun them? At a guess I'd suspect that we could do so pretty easily but I don't really know. If we can outrun them, wouldn't the best response just be to run and not stop? Seems to me that it wouldn't even matter what direction, any direction would do as long as it wasn't a dead-end.
#12
Old 07-12-2002, 01:00 AM
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Thanking you in advance for tonight's fresh nightmare material.

#13
Old 07-12-2002, 12:23 PM
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Motog, that is the best plan (to run in one direction as fast as you can, protecting your face and head).

The problems start if you are in bad terrain, or rock climbing, etc.. The cyclist who got attacked took off running, but he was running uphill, and had some difficulty. He said that he worried that if he tripped, he was not going to make it back up (the stings were overwhelming him).

Makes it pretty clear why small children and elderly, etc. are in particular danger.
#14
Old 07-12-2002, 01:20 PM
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I heard that killer bees are attracted by the carbon dioxide in your breath. Even if you're underwater, they'll home in on the bubbles as you exhale, and be waiting for you when you surface.
#15
Old 07-12-2002, 05:31 PM
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I was in Costa Rica at the time the africanized bees were first invading the country. I was working as an agricultural extensionist at the time, primarily with fish, but in order to save expense I regularly had to cover for the resident apiculturist. I quickly learned when approaching a hive (especially one I hadn't been to in a while) to leave the motorcycle running about 100 feet away from the hive. If the bees had become africanized since the last visit, you would know as soon as you approached with your smoke can. (Italian bees that we normally used respond to smoke by moving slower and becoming more docile. Smoke has the reverse effect on africanized bees.) If the bees reacted negatively, it was time to drop the smoker and beat feet for the cycle, and ride like the wind. Using this method would limit your stings to ten or twenty at the most. Then you come back with the full bee gear (we only had one set and wearing it in the tropics is not much better than getting stung- and you'd still pick up a few more stings, gear or no gear) kill all the queens and drones and start over with a new italian queen larva.
#16
Old 07-12-2002, 05:39 PM
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Warning: Hijack

We also had black bees with no stingers that are native to Costa Rica. They didn't get into your hives but they were fairly common in the countryside. Despite the lack of stingers, these bees were even more aggresive than the africanized bees. And they were disgusting. They would attack by crawling into your hair by the thousands and biting your scalp, while emitting honey. Oh, it was awful. The only way to get them to stop was to run away and to smash the ones already on your head. The resulting mash of bee parts, honey, hair, and wounded scalp still makes me shiver in disgust.

Fishhead
#17
Old 07-12-2002, 06:52 PM
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"If the bees reacted negatively, it was time to drop the smoker and beat feet for the cycle, and ride like the wind."

-Fishhead

No joke, I would be movin' on out of there! And hoping not to hit a bump in the road. That story about the black bees grosses me out too. Time to do more research

Did you hear about or have to help anyone out who got attacked? Also, how did they sting through the bee suits... did they find ways to get inside, or could they just sting through the netting? It hurts to think about it!
#18
Old 07-12-2002, 09:25 PM
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Quote:
So, how fast can bees fly? Can we outrun them?
don't know. No we can't outrun them. If you ever watched them (hornets) leave the hive you will notice that they move so fast that they are very hard to track.

I just read some advice that says move slowly away - the bees use light the same way as we do and when PO'ed they will attack any fast moving object. It also mentions going through thick brush.
#19
Old 07-13-2002, 02:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Motog
So, how fast can bees fly?
African bees or European bees?



Sorry, but someone had to say it.
#20
Old 07-14-2002, 11:33 AM
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"Did you hear about or have to help anyone out who got attacked? Also, how did they sting through the bee suits... did they find ways to get inside, or could they just sting through the netting? It hurts to think about it!" - Scottyhp

I never saw anyone stung really badly except myself. I guess my counterpart apiculturist got it pretty bad once too, but I wasn't around. There was one time (first african bee experience) I pulled the cycle right up to the hive and turned it off before I noticed the bees boiling out. Then the damn thing wouldn't start again for about six kicks. I nearly left it and tried running but in retrospect it probably wouldn't have been the right thing unless it hadn't started at all. Worst part is that I had a couple inside my helmet (which I never took off until I was far away), and they stung my face pretty bad before I could get them off. So it was hard to see while driving.

Any beekeeper will tell you that the suits aren't 100%. Almost nobody wears them unless you work with the african boys. They are hot and the bees find ways to wiggle between the fabric, or get you through a screen.

Re the black bees: these things eat the leaves off of young macadamia trees, and my agency (Diversificacion Agricola) was also promoting macadamias as an ag item. That means that some of the farmers I was working with had to actually go out and look for these hives and destroy them. That has got to be high on the list of worst jobs.

Duane
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