Jarrell Bowen is recovering Monday after an aggressive bee attack in Loco, just east of Duncan. Bowen says he believes they were Africanized honey bees, also known as killer bees. He is recovering at Duncan Regional Hospital tonight after having 55 stingers removed from his head and arms.
It happened around 9:30 Monday. Bowen says he was moving a fallen tree from a construction site when he stirred up the hive, releasing more than two thousand bees. He said the attack was so violent it made him physically sick; and his eyes were so swollen he could barely dial the phone for help. "They just about got me, sure did," Bowen said.
Bowen says when the bees started swarming he ran to his truck as fast as he could, "...but it wasn't fast enough, of course, heading for the pick up," he said, "and they're just swarming and I couldn't -- it's hard to explain..."
But once he got in his truck, he did the right thing, and enclosed himself in with the few that were able to get inside with him. "...and rolled the windows up. And they come in there with me, about 15 or 20 of them. And I finally got them killed down, what I could kind of see what I was doing. My eyes were swelling up a little bit, and I could see. It's quite an ordeal," he said. "I got so weak i couldn't hardly even dial the phone. I finally did, it's bad."
He says he wouldn't have disturbed the trees if he had known there was a hive inside -- but the only sign of bees was the single sting he had gotten in the same area just two days ago. "Oh I've been stung quite a bit in the past, didn't bother me none," he said. "But 50 or 60 stings at a time, that's pretty rank."
With the increase of Africanized honey bees in Oklahoma, Comanche County Emergency Management has been training emergency responders in ways to handle these killer bees. "As kids we all attacked the bee hive, we can't do that anymore," said Comanche County Emergency Management Coordinator Clint Wagstaff.
He says Africanized honey bees are much more aggressive -- especially when aggitated -- but it's not always your fault. "A normal swarm of bees, or honey bees, if they get up in the air, especially with the wind blowing today, they can get up high and get in the air and they'll be upset that they're away from their hive," Wagstaff said.
And Africanized bees will chase their prey and wait for them to come out, even if the person dives underwater. "Try to run with your mouth closed," he said. "The bees are attracted to the carbon monoxide in your breath."
If you are attacked by Africanized honey bees it's best to shield your face and run for shelter. But don't jump into water because the bees will wait for you to come up for air. And remove stingers as soon as possible by using a plastic card to scrape them out pulling them out with tweezers only forces more venom into the skin.
To avoid attacks altogether, be alert for bees that act strangely. That's often their defensive behavior before an attack. And watch for bees around your home because Africanized honey bees are less selective about where they nest. "They hide in old tree stumps, dark places, old vehicles, junk around the yard," Wagstaff said. "They've been known to get into water meters. Nothing will be there one week, then next week they're there."