AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, Austin resident Emily Frank and her dog, Dexter, went out for a walk around their south Austin neighborhood near the Onion Creek Greenbelt. Moments later, they found themselves in a swarm of hundreds of Africanized honey bees, nearly killing Dexter and landing Frank in the emergency room.
“At that point, like, there was just this like swarm of them, and so I didn’t know what to do,” Frank said. “I was like swatting them away, I was trying to get them off of him. And then at one point he was just laying there and he was like, blanketed, like, like with these bees.”
Africanized honey bees, informally referred to as “killer bees,” are a kind of honey bee not too different from the docile ones most of us are familiar with. Unlike your typical honey bee, though, Africanized honey bees are extremely aggressive and known to chase in swarms, covering and attacking people or animals in their wake.
Africanized bees have been present in Texas since the 1990s and often react to loud noises, vibrations or disturbances to their hives. During warmer weather, seemingly harmless activities like mowing the lawn can rile up a swarm.
“Any bee, whether it’s in a hive or wild colony or whatever, if you start messing with its hive, then it’s going to have problems,” because I mean, that’s like somebody invading your home and messing with where you’re raising your kids and stuff like that,” said Wizzie Brown, an entomologist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. “So they don’t like that. And they’re going to try to defend themselves.”
Texas is currently denoted as an Africanized state, meaning Africanized honey bees are present, said Mary Reed, chief apiary inspector at Texas Apiary Inspection Service.
“In the event of a bee attack, it is critical that the person get into an enclosed space (i.e a vehicle, building) as quickly as possible and remain there,” she said in an email to KXAN. “Bees will follow you into that space and continue to attack, but this is less of a threat than if you were to exit the vehicle where the majority of the bees are still active. Honey bees can only sting once, so it’s best to remain in the enclosed space.”
Three days later, Dexter is finally coming home from the animal hospital after coding and suffering acute liver failure. Two emergency room trips later, Frank is slowly on the mend and dealing with a low grade fever and muscle pains after sustaining approximately 80 stings, half of them on her scalp and face.
She credits the quick thinking of a neighborhood friend, a nurse practitioner who gave Dexter some epinephrine and saved his life. A park manager driving around Frank’s neighborhood called 911, while another neighbor came out with a shirt to help shield her face.
“It’s just been like a chaotic few days,” she said. “It’s insane. Like I never in my entire life would have thought that this would happen.”