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Mon, June 17

Community View | My personal experience with Africanized killer bees

An Africanized bee hive on Gila River Indian Community land in 2016. (Photo by Ktr101, cc-by-sa-4.0, https://bit.ly/2Z8WYfY)

An Africanized bee hive on Gila River Indian Community land in 2016. (Photo by Ktr101, cc-by-sa-4.0, https://bit.ly/2Z8WYfY)

I know better – do not swat at or try to kill bees flying around you, especially Africanized bees. The moral of this story is try to stay calm and run as far as you can. No kidding, your life may be at stake.

It must have been the noise of my Jeep stopping right next to their hive and me jumping out and slamming the door closed. Five steps later they were onto me and the couple in the Jeep behind me, who had two young pet ducklings with them.

The bees attacked us all and killed the poor, sad ducklings right away. The couple was horrified but did the logical thing after a nonsensical rescue attempt – they ran away a good distance.

Thinking these were bees I’m used to around here, I was walking away and slowly waving my cap and hands to distract them away. After the first three or four stings, I was on my way downhill as the planted stingers’ smell attracted other bees, and they were all after me. There was no going back to the Jeep. I was off on an erratic stumble down a rather steep and rocky hill. A number of bees became a horde stinging me everywhere and further arm flailing was useless. I just tried not to fall, but, incredibly, I felt my legs losing the ability to even stand. Mental effort could not overcome the rubbery feeling in my legs. My eyesight became a mixture of white and yellow triangles slowly revolving so similar to a kaleidoscope mixed with the landscape as I made the first of several somewhat controlled falls to the ground. My mental focus was to keep going, thinking they would give up with more distance. Not so.

My legs would no longer work. I’m scooting on my butt realizing how futile this was. I was developing a horrendous thirst and a horrible urge to defecate three different times, as I barely managed to unbuckle my pants as I lay on the rocks and barely scooted to get away from each mess. My mind could not get anything to physically function anymore.

I finally rolled into a sizable bush with head and hands covering under my hat. I played dead – as if I had another option! I felt my mouth swelling shut and kept it tightly closed to preserve any loss of further hydration. My ability to physically function at all just evaporated right out of me from all the stinging.

The bees were not going away. They were crawling, stinging, in my hair, ears, nose – everywhere. I was thinking this is the part of the movie where I’m going to die. I just thought I had to stay conscious and not move anymore. I absolutely could not move. It was time to pray hard and I did. I just knew I was a helpless goner.

After an interminable time of incredible misery, the buzzing seemed to be lightening up, ever so slowly, and a forever later they finally stopped. After several attempts, over hours, I was able to sit up. I could barely see at all for the slow revolving white and yellow triangles, wondering if the other two fared worse than me? How long before anyone would miss us? I fired off the first of several pistol shots hoping someone would hear – they did not.

I lay down trying to gather some strength to move, for over three hours I later found out.

Yes they came looking and were using a piercing whistle that I never heard. That evidently was how far I ran down that hill, getting away. Just when I thought I would spend the night up there, down at the bottom of the hill appeared, to these old eyes, a pale bulky looking yellow-green truck. I fired off another round and used one of my few functioning abilities, “HELP! Help me. I can’t walk!”

It was the Yucca Fire and Rescue crew. I’m told they arrived 45 minutes after being called – an impressive response considering where I was.

They eventually got me unsteadily down the hill and after checking all the vitals and strongly suggesting I go to the hospital, I opted out. After copious water they dropped me off at home, as vitals continued to slowly improve.

A hot shower, to calm the sharp chills and my sneezing, draining nose, my wife helped to scrub off stingers leaving hundreds of red welts everywhere. I slept.

It appears for now, with lots of rest, that my personal movie will play on a bit longer. My wife is still picking out stingers and I am reminded, after a number of scary close calls, how fragile life can be and how important it is to stay alert and live your life like tomorrow may be your last.

I had changed my eating and drinking habits a year ago and believe that is why I am able to write this to you.

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