By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
KEVIN Johnson is lucky to be alive after being viciously attacked by a swarm of killer bees which had been disturbed by noise from a tractor in the area of West Sunrise Highway, Grand Bahama, on Tuesday morning.
The man who rescued him, local pest control expert Stephano Evans, said “it is a miracle that he survived the ordeal”.
Mr Johnson, 31, who is listed in stable condition in the Rand Memorial Hospital, is badly swollen and has blisters all over his body. He is said to be doing well and is being kept for observation to ensure all of the venom or toxins have been flushed from his system, The Tribune was told yesterday.
Mr Johnson, a resident of South Bahamia, was sitting at a bus stop shelter on West Sunrise Highway when noise from a tractor doing landscaping work in the area upset the beehive. Passing motorists watched in horror as he lay helpless on the ground covered by the swarm. Police, firemen and a pest control company were called to assist.
Mr Evans, senior pest technician at Budget Pest Control, said Africanised hybrid bees – also known as killer bees – attacked Mr Johnson. The bees, he said, are known to be very aggressive and easily provoked. The area was cordoned off and there were six to seven police squad cars, as well as fire trucks, on the scene when Mr Evans arrived.
“I saw a male victim lying down shirtless on the ground with a swarm of bees on him,” he recalled.
Dressed in a protective bee suit, Mr Evans assisted the victim. “I picked him up, put him on my shoulder and placed him on the back of a police truck for transfer out of the area,” he said. Mr Evans said he visited Mr Johnson in hospital a few hours after the incident to check on him. “He is stable and is doing better, but it is a miracle because it normally takes about 100 to 200 bee stings to kill an adult male, and I would say that he was stung over 300 times – his body was completely covered in blisters, stingers and he was swollen,” he said.
Budget Pest Control returned to the area later that evening and found the swarm of bees nesting in an old tyre in the bushes behind the bus shelter. “The hive was located behind the bus shelter where Johnson had been waiting on the bus,” Mr Evans said. “A local trucking company was also in the area doing landscaping and the noise and vibration from the tractor agitated the bees and they went on a full swarm attack – everyone else got away safely, except Johnson.”
An official at the Department of Agriculture in Freeport declined to comment on the matter when contacted yesterday.
It is believed that the Africanised bees were first sighted in Grand Bahama in 2007. The bees swarm in the thousands, according to Mr Evans.
“All bees can kill, especially if individuals are allergic to the venom in bee stings. The Africanised bees, however, are more dangerous because they are easily provoked, and they will follow and attack far greater distances from the hive, and in greater numbers,” he said.
While the average bee swarm is around 500, Mr Evans pointed out that the Africanised bee swarm can be anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 bees.
He warned people who come across a hive to get out of the area and notify the authorities and a local pest control company immediately. “If you come under attack, you should cover your ears and get indoors or out of the area as quickly as possible,” he said.
Mr Evans said water would not deter the bees. “Jumping in the water will not scare them off, they are very smart and will wait ... until you resurface for air.” He added that Africanised bees are common in the Bahamas, especially in Grand Bahama. “They are here and we discovered them back in 2007 – that was our first run in with them.”
He said the bees are usually found nesting in the bushes away from noise and disturbance.