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A Deadly Swarm

A 41-year-old Ratcliff logger named Jeffery Lee Patton was pronounced dead after being attacked by hundreds of bees on a private property in Texas.

Patton was "topping out a tree" on private property near the Pleasant Springs community in Leon County around 10 a.m. when he was attacked by hundreds of bees.

A small number of the bees were recovered from Patton's clothing.

Peggy Ivey, administrative assistant with the Leon County Sheriff's Department, said that approximately a half-dozen other loggers were in the vicinity when Patton was attacked.

"They had cut down some pine trees," Ivey said. "He was topping out a tree."My understanding is they heard him yelling and went to check on him...and attempted to help the victim, but could not get the bees away from him," she continued. "The bees kept attacking them."

Bee swarms can be dangerous, particularly stings to the face and neck.
A witness contacted 9-1-1 at 10:13 a.m. "The gentleman progressively got worse (during the course of the telephone conversation)," Ivey said.

Officials say Patton was pronounced dead at East Texas Medical Center in Crockett shortly after his arrival.

At least one other logger was stung by the bees, but did not sustain serious injuries.

Representatives of the Leon County Sheriff's Department searched the area of the fatal bee attack shortly after it occurred.

"We have yet to find where they are located," Ivey said. "They are out there, but we haven't been able to find the hive."

If bees attack, do not try to escape by jumping into a swimming pool or pond. The bees likely will be waiting for you when you come up for air.

If you get stung or hear bees buzzing, run away fast and get inside a house or car. If there is no shelter, run through bushes or high weeds.

A honey bee will leave its stinger in your skin if it stings you. Get the stinger out by raking your fingernail across it. Do not pinch or pull the stinger out. Put ice on a sting to reduce the swelling.

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Symptoms and Complications:
Stinging Insects

Bee and wasp stings are immediately obvious. A sharp pain is followed by a burning sensation that soon resolves into a major itch. A red ring or bump appears at the site of the sting.

The important thing to remember is that bees' stingers are barbed and usually remain in the skin. In its haste to get away, the bee literally tears the stinger and the attached poison sac out of its abdomen, killing itself in the process. Wasps and hornets lack barbs on their stingers and can attack again and again.

The most serious immediate reactions occur from stings of the yellow-and-black flying insects. A major allergic reaction that interferes with breathing is called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock.

Histamine, a chemical released by the body during most allergic reactions, is released into the skin after any insect bite and is responsible for the redness and itching.

In anaphylaxis, histamine causes major itching and redness of the skin (hives), and may also be released in the airways, lungs, and other vital organs. It causes tissue to swell, can close the airways (causing breathing to stop), and can drop blood pressure to dangerously low levels.

Anaphylaxis can occur after a single bite, but this is rare. More typically, fatal anaphylaxis occurs when somebody gets stung many times (50 to 100), still nowhere near enough times to kill a non-allergic person.

It is possible to be killed by multiple stings. The insect most likely to do this is the infamous Africanized killer bee, which has spread in recent years from Mexico to parts of the southern United States.

Contrary to popular belief, this bee is no more poisonous than native varieties, but swarms are highly aggressive and can inflict up to hundreds of stings in only a few seconds. A human can tolerate about 10 wasp or bee stings per pound of body weight and still survive, meaning it usually takes over 1,000 stings to seriously harm a healthy adult.

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"I Thought I Was Going to Die"

There was hardly any skin on the boy that wasn't covered in bees. So Ken Platt turned his garden hose on the child, driving away the stinging insects with a gush of water.

"He was hardly coherent," Platt said. Covered in stings and welts, the boy could manage only a few words: "I can't walk."

Avoid coming into contact with wasp nests at all costs.
Amir Panah and three others, 13-year-old seventh-graders walking home on the last day of school, were attacked by thousands of swarming bees when they stirred up a nest in Southern California.

Chris DeWitt suffered about 50 stings to the chest and face, and was later released from the hospital. Amir was stung 100 or more times on his upper body. He also was treated and released.

"I don't think there was one part of his face that wasn't covered in bee stings," said Susan Ott, a hospital volunteer who saw Amir when he arrived.

For the last day of class, Chris asked his father if he and a few friends could skip the bus and walk home from school instead.

The route was a couple of miles by car; the boys would take a shortcut through the preserve. Their homes were on the other side of the preserve, and they thought there might be a path.

When they didn't find one, they tried creating one, Chris said. They were trying to work their way around some bushes when they came upon the bees.

"We touched the wrong bush," Chris said. "All I saw was bees in my face."

Esteban immediately felt the bees stinging him. He and Connor ran out to Via Panacea. Esteban ran to the home of a friend, and the bees followed him. He showered at his friend's house, and the family put ice on his stings.

Back in the canyon, Chris took off his shirt to swat the bees swarming around his face. Disoriented, he couldn't find a way out of the bushes.

"I thought I was going to die," he said. "I got so scared. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't feel anything. I had to get out."

He made his way out, leaving Amir behind.

Platt, who rescued the boys and was stung several times, was working in his home office on Via Panacea about 3 p.m. when he heard a frantic pounding on his front door. "Help me! Help me!" someone cried.

He flung open the door and found a boy, with another close behind. Platt ran to the canyonside beyond his back yard. He hosed off Chris, then Amir. "His whole body was covered," Platt said of Amir. "The stingers were all there and the welts and everything else."

A neighbor called 911, and medics put Chris and Amir into ambulances. A police helicopter swooped down to warn neighbors to keep their distance. It located the swarm and directed an exterminator to the hive. The bees nested inside an old spool used for cable or wiring. The hive was at the center in a 2-foot wide space.

Gary Rosenberg, an exterminator with Nationwide Pest Control, which contracts with the city, sprayed the hive with Wasp/Bee Freeze and then blanketed it with Drione Dust, a powder that would kill any bees returning to the hive.

"The queen is dead," Rosenberg said. "They're gone; they're dying. The ones that were out getting lunch and dinner, they're going to come back and get into my powder."

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This mosquito's underbelly is red with the blood of its latest victim.
DEET

You've probably heard about DEET. But what is it and what exactly can it do for you?

DEET is the active ingredient in most insect repellents available in North America that are applied to the skin.

DEET disrupts the ability of biting insects to detect the source of carbon dioxide—the gas naturally given off by our skin and in our breath— which is what attracts mosquitoes and other insects to us.  Insects aren’t killed—they just can’t locate their prey for a period of hours.

DEET-based repellents at various concentrations offer different protection times.

Who Should Use DEET?

Children under 6 months of age

  • DO NOT use personal insect repellents containing DEET on infants.

Children aged 6 months to 2 years

  • In situations where a high risk of complications from insect bites exist, the use of one application per day of DEET may be considered for this age group.

  • The least concentrated product (10% DEET or less) should be used.

  • As with all insect repellents, the product should be applied sparingly and not be applied to the face and hands.

  • Prolonged use should be avoided.

Children between 2-12 years of age

  • The least concentrated product (10% DEET or less) should be used.

  • Do not apply more than three times per day.
  • Prolonged use should be avoided.

Adults and Individuals 12 Years of Age or Older:

  • Products containing DEET at concentrations above 30% will no longer be acceptable for registration, based on a human health risk assessment that considered daily application of DEET over a prolonged period of time.

  • Studies show that products with lower concentrations of DEET are as effective as the high concentration products, but they remain so for shorter periods of time.

  • Products containing no more than a 30% concentration of DEET will provide adults with sufficient protection. Re-apply after these protection times have elapsed if necessary.

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Mosquito larvae gestate beneath the surface of even the smallest amount of water.
Personal Insect Repellant

General Use Information for All Personal Insect Repellents

  • Always read the entire label carefully before using. Follow all of the label directions, including restrictions for use on young children and the maximum number of applications allowed per day.

  • Apply the repellent sparingly, and only on exposed skin surfaces or on top of clothing. Do not use under clothing. Heavy application and saturation are unnecessary for effectiveness. Repeat applications only as necessary.

  • Do not get in eyes. If you do get repellent in your eyes, rinse immediately with water.

  • Do not use the repellent on open wounds, or if your skin is irritated or sunburned.

  • Avoid breathing spray mists and never apply sprays inside a tent. Use only in well-ventilated areas. Do not use near food.

  • Wash treated skin with soap and water when you return indoors or when protection is no longer needed.

  • Keep all insect repellent containers out of the reach of children.

  • Always supervise the application on children.

  • Avoid applying repellent to children’s hands to reduce the chance of getting the repellent in their eyes and mouths.

  • If you suspect that you or your child are reacting to an insect repellent, stop using the product immediately, wash treated skin and seek medical attention. When you go to the doctor, take the product container with you.

  • If you are concerned that you are sensitive to a product, apply the product to a small area of skin on your arm and wait 24 hours to see if a reaction occurs.

 

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Quit Bugging Me!

In North America, there are very few types of insects that carry venom or poison and none whose venom is dangerous. It is possible, however, for an insect bite or sting to cause an allergic reaction that can range from a mild local reaction to something like a severe asthma attack. In extreme allergic reactions, your airways can close up and you can even stop breathing.

The insect responsible for the largest number of severe allergic reactions is the yellow jacket wasp. Considering both multiple stings and allergic reactions to single stings, insects actually harm or even kill (in rare cases) more than three times as many North Americans as snakes do.

Stinging insects:

  • honeybees and bumblebees

  • wasps (yellow jackets) and hornets

  • fire ants (a wingless insect found only in the southeastern U.S.)

All three have different kinds of venom, but none is likely to be dangerous in small doses unless someone is allergic to the poison.

Biting and bloodsucking insects:

  • ticks

  • flies (e.g., blackflies, sand flies, deerflies, horseflies)

  • mosquitoes

  • bedbugs

  • fleas

None of them are actually poisonous, but some have saliva that can irritate or provoke a reaction, and others can introduce infections when they bite.

bee attack
While bug bites and stings are generally more of a nuisance than a danger, it is still wise to exercise precaution and not take unnecessary risks.
Beware of the Bloodsuckers!

Every time a biting fly (or other biting insect or related arthropod) takes a blood meal it injects a small amount of salivary fluid to help prevent coagulation within and around its mouthparts. This fluid contains proteins which act as allergens, resulting in swollen, itchy welts.

Mosquitoes

While you may see them resting on shrubbery or in tall grass during the day, mosquitoes get their start in water. The female can lay 100 to 400 eggs directly on the water’s surface and they are likely to hatch within 24 hours.

When conditions are right, the entire cycle from egg to adult can be completed in less than 10 days. Some mosquitoes like to feed from birds and other species like to feed from animals including people.

The female mosquito is more problematic than the male. Aside from the fact that the female is responsible for laying eggs, a female mosquito can live for up to three weeks during the summer and will feed on blood more than once.When this happens, the female mosquito has the potential to transmit blood-borne diseases from one animal or person to another.

Black Flies

No other biting flies inspire such apprehension, particularly among visitors to Canada, as do black flies.Back flies often land and take off repeatedly without biting. Their numbers, and their tendency to bite, increase as sunset approaches.

Even when they are not biting, however, their buzzing presence and constant crawling is as irritating as the bloodsucking itself. Although they cannot bite through clothing, black flies have a predilection for crawling into hair or under clothing, biting in inaccessible places, such as the ankles and belt line.

Horse Flies and Deer Flies

Tabanids, as these flies are usually collectively called, occur throughout Canada south of the treeline. Active only during the day, when the weather is warm, most species are prevalent only during summer, from June to August. Most of the species are thus present simultaneously.

Horse fly larvae are fierce predators, capturing their prey, usually the larvae of other insects, with their sharp sickle-shaped mandibles and paralyzing them with an injection of venom like a rattlesnake. These moderate sized flies with their appetite for blood and aggressive behaviour make the tabanids a nuisance for all mammals.

The Real Danger of Mosquitoes:
West Nile Virus

What is West Nile Virus?

West Nile virus belongs to a family of viruses called Flaviviridae. It is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on the blood of infected birds. West Nile virus is closely related to the viruses that cause Dengue fever, Yellow fever and St. Louis encephalitis.

How Do I Get Infected?

The evidence shows that most people infected with West Nile virus got it from the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito becomes infected when it feeds on the blood of a bird that is infected with the virus.

The mosquito then becomes capable of passing the virus to people and animals by biting them. Although the chance of being infected is low - and the percentage of those infected that develop severe health effects is even lower - everyone in an area that has West Nile virus activity is at risk

What are the symptoms of West Nile virus infection?

Many people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms and do not get sick or have only mild symptoms. When infection does cause illness, symptoms will usually appear within two to 15 days. The extent and severity of symptoms vary widely from person to person.

In mild cases, there may be flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache and body aches. Some people may also develop a mild rash, or swollen lymph glands.

Some individuals have weaker immune systems, and they are at greater risk of developing symptoms and health effects that are more serious, including meningitis, encephalitis and acute flaccid paralysis. Meningitis is inflammation of the lining of the brain or spinal cord. Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain itself. Acute flaccid paralysis is a polio-like syndrome that can result in the loss of function of one or more limbs. These conditions can be fatal.

For people with more severe illness, symptoms could include the rapid onset of severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, nausea, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, loss of consciousness, lack of coordination, muscle weakness and paralysis.

Other symptoms that have been identified include movement disorders, parkinsonism, poliomyelitis-like syndrome and muscle degeneration. Anyone who has a sudden onset of these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

The Best Defense: Prevention and Protection

By taking simple precautions to lessen your chance of being bitten by a mosquito, you can also lessen your chance of getting West Nile virus.

1. Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites:

  • When going outdoors, use insect repellents that contain DEET or other approved ingredients

  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants and a hat. Light coloured clothing is best because mosquitoes tend to be attracted to dark colours

  • Make sure that door and window screens fit tightly and have no holes that may allow mosquitoes indoors

2. Eliminate mosquito breeding sites around your home and vacation property:

Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water and it takes about four days for the eggs to grow into adults that are ready to fly. Even a small amount of water, for example, in a saucer under a flower pot, is enough to act as a breeding ground. As a result, it is important to eliminate as much standing water around your property as possible by:

  • Regularly (twice a week) draining standing water from items like pool covers, saucers under flower pots, recycle bins, garbage cans, etc.

  • Remove old unused items from around your property (i.e., old tires) which have a tendency to collect water

  • Change the water in wading pools, bird baths, pet bowls and livestock watering tanks twice a week

  • Cover rain barrels with screens birdbath

  • Clean out eavestroughs regularly to prevent clogs that can trap water.

  • Purchase an aerator or ornamental pond. This will keep the surface water moving which will make the water inhospitable to mosquito larvae.

Africanized Honeybees

In 1956, bee geneticist Warwick E. Kerr imported queen bees of an African race (Apis mellifera scutellata) into Brazil to breed a more productive honeybee that was better adapted to the Neotropical climate and vegetation.

The following year, 26 of Kerr's Africanized honeybee queens were inadvertently released into the surrounding forest. Since then, the Africanized hybrids have been expanding their range northward, with an average rate of between 330 and 500 km each year. They are more popularly known as the "killer bee."

What's the Difference?

It is extremely difficult to differentiate an Africanized Honeybee from the more common European Honeybee.

They both: 

  • have the same appearance

  • sting only once

  • have the same venom

Africanized honeybees also have their own identities. They:

  • are more aggressive

  • guard a larger area around their hives

  • become upset more easily by humans and machinery

  • respond faster and in larger swarms

  • chase threatening humans and animals for as much as a quarter of a mile

Nest Sites

Africanized honeybees are not choosy about where they settle.

Likely nesting sites include:

  • abandoned or rarely used vehicles

  • empty containers

  • places and objects with holes

  • fences

  • old tires

  • trees

  • in or around structures

  • garages

  • outbuildings

  • sheds

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Africanized bees are much more dangerous than the typical North American bee.