By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
RECENT “aggressive” bee attacks occurring in Freeport and East Grand Bahama have prompted the Bahamas National Trust to issue an alert to the public.
BNT officials believe that Africanised bees are responsible for these attacks, and that persons should report any aggressive encounters to the local office in Freeport.
Elsworth Weir, BNT Grand Bahama national park manager, reported a team from BNT was recently attacked on June 12 while conducting a bird survey in the vicinity of East Grand Bahama.
The team was on Lightbourne Cay, located south of Sweeting’s Cay, when they encountered an aggressive swarm of bees around 600 metres into the native vegetation, resulting in team members receiving numerous stings, with one person being stung up to 16 times.
He said science officer Scott Johnson was among the team when the incident happened.
“They were cutting their way through, and Scott chopped a tree and did not realise there was a bees nest in there, so the bees were disturbed,” Mr Weir said. “They ran and the bees followed them and they started attacking them. They had to make their way out of there with the bees chasing them.”
Mr Weir said that there were also anecdotal reports of bee attacks in Freeport and Sweeting’s Cay.
He explained that attacks usually occur when the bee nest or hive is disturbed.
“In Scott’s situation, the bush was so thick and they were trying to cut their way through; it was kind of an unusual situation because normally you would see signs or be able to tell if a bee hive is around once you start seeing them,” Mr Weir said.
“Based on the extreme aggression of their behaviour, the BNT believes that these may be Africanised bees,” a BNT statement noted. “We do also acknowledge several anecdotal reports from Grand Bahama, namely Freeport and Sweeting’s Cay, regarding attacks from aggressive bees that therefore affirm our suspicions. The BNT has communicated with the Department of Agriculture regarding this issue and has requested an inquiry into this matter.”
To prevent being stung, Mr Weir stressed that persons should be alert and avoid disturbing a hive.
He warned that once the hive is disturbed, the bees send out or emit pheromones which alerts all the other bees to attack.
“It smells like bananas. So once you start smelling them, then you know the other bees have been alerted and they are just going to keep coming. At that point you walk or run away,” he said.
In 2014, The Tribune reported that a Grand Bahama man, Kevin Johnson, was lucky to be alive after being viciously attacked by a swarm of killer bees.
Mr Johnson, a resident of South Bahamia, was sitting at a bus stop shelter on West Sunrise Highway in October 2014 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 and Mr Johnson was taken to hospital.
At the time, a senior pest technician at Budget Pest Control told this newspaper that Africanised hybrid bees – also known as killer bees – attacked Mr Johnson. The bees, the technician said, are known to be very aggressive and easily provoked.
Persons who encounter or see a hive can contact the Grand Bahama Beekeepers Cooperative at 814-7922; the Ministry of Agriculture’s Animal Control Unit; Mr Weir at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-5438, or science officer Scott Johnson at email@example.com or 393-1371.