AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Memorial Day, Austin-Travis County EMS responded to reports of a bee swarm attack near a Travis County park which left seven people injured.
It happened during peak swarming season in Texas, which typically runs from late March through June. Swarming season occurs when honeybees’ hives are overcrowded, leading to the need for a new colony, according to PCI Pest Control.
But what do you do if you’re caught in a swarm attack? Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service stressed the importance of trying to outrun the swarm.
That same sentiment was echoed by Dr. Juliana Rangel, an associate professor of apiculture at Texas A&M University. Bee colonies can live and build hives in cavities in places like a tree or a building, or they can set up a clustered colony as a swarm.
Typically, she said swarms are more gentle because they don’t have a cavity to protect. But if someone were to knock into a hive or disturb it using machinery, that vibration could signal an attack.
“Honeybee colonies typically don’t attack unless they’re disturbed,” she said. “If you’re mowing a lawn near a shed where there’s a swarm or a colony, the vibration of the substrate is enough to get them disturbed and agitated and angry.”
She said standing in place and trying to swat away the bees only allows more time for additional bees to buzz over, which could lead to even more stings. If possible, it’s recommended to run toward an enclosed location, like a car or a building, where you can physically distance yourself from the swarm.
“The farther you are from their home, the less likely they are to continue stinging,” she added.
Despite initial inclinations you might have, do not try and hide in a body of water when escaping a bee swarm. Bees have been reported to hover above the surface poised to attack once the person or animal emerges, per Texas A&M Agrilife.
Once you’ve removed yourself from the swarm, it’s critical to try and remove any stingers from your body as quickly as possible. When left in the skin, stingers can continue pumping venom.
You can either scrape stingers off with your fingernails or, using a knife blade, carefully scrape across your skin.
Beyond removing the stingers, it’s also imperative you seek medical attention immediately. While a healthy adult can handle up to hundreds of bee stings from a severe swarm, anyone with bee venom allergies are extremely vulnerable to dangerous and possibly fatal side effects, especially if you begin experiencing hives, difficulty breathing and swelling around the throat and face.
For those with documented or possible allergies, Rangel recommended carrying allergy medication or EpiPens on hand during peak summer months as an added precaution.
Monday’s attack in south Austin happened at Travis County’s Richard Moya Park. A county spokesperson told KXAN Travis County Parks has hired a professional to remove and relocate the hive from the park to another location.