The following blurb from the November 7, 2008 issue of The Week caught my eye.
Killer bees attack: A swarm of angry bees this week killed three dogs and sent a 70-year-old woman to the hospital with multiple stings. The bees attacked Nancy Hill 15 feet from her front door as she left the house to walk her two Dachshunds. The bees also attacked two Pit Bulls, killing one. “They were out to hurt seriously,” said Hill’s husband, Brian, who also was stung. “These guys were really powerful.” Exterminators later removed a 50-pound hive from a nearby abandoned house. The insects are being tested to determine whether they are Africanized “killer” honeybees, which carry a gene that makes them more aggressive.
First, let me say that it is not exactly appropriate to call the bees guys. Only female bees sting. Male bees, called drones, do not.
Second, I have long taken issue with the notion that Africanized bees are exceptionally dangerous. This is based on my experiences working in a lion research camp in Botswana.
In Africa, all of the bees are “Africanized”. I spent two months in the research camp during the dry season. The only source of water for the humans and insects in camp was a single spigot attached to a well.
African honeybees regularly swarmed the leaky spigot in their quest for water. When I needed to fill my water bottle, I found that the bees would readily move out of my way if I approached the spigot slowly. I was never stung.
Nonetheless, I feel deep sympathy for all of the people and dogs who were stung in the incident mentioned in The Week.
Image credit: Carly and Art. Image license: CC