FORT PIERCE, Fla. There's nothing like 8,000 gallons of foamy
water to take the sting out of a potentially dangerous situation.
After a man clearing brush next to Forest Grove Middle School was
stung 15 times last week by what are suspected to be Africanized
honeybees, a 2,000-gallon tanker truck from the St. Lucie County Fire
District doused the hive four times before officials were convinced
the bees were no longer a threat.
"There's a very high possibility that these are Africanized
honeybees, so we're treating them as if they are,'' said Lt. Tom
Gladwin of the St. Lucie Fire District as he suited up to attack the
Wade Tindall of Fort Pierce, a St. Lucie County firefighter who
runs a land-clearing business in his off-duty hours, ran a bulldozer
over a discarded spool of cable and unearthed the hive.
"In a few seconds, I felt the first sting,'' Tindall said. "Well,
I just went off running like a crazy man. They must have chased me for
150 to 200 yards.''
Tindall was stung 15 times on his head, neck and arms.
"It felt like somebody sticking needles all over me,'' he said.
"Luckily, I'm not allergic; so I'm good.''
Within an hour or so, Tindall was one of the firefighters suiting
up to attack the hive.
"The battalion chief requested that I go in with them to show them
where the hive is,'' Tindall said as his ankles were wrapped in duct
tape to keep bees from flying up his pants legs.
"We called for a specialist to come get rid of them,'' said
Battalion Chief Arthur Poolt, "but were told it would take him an
hour or two to get here. With the kids in school right here, we didn't
want to wait that long.''
Poolt said the foam used to fight fires also kills bees.
"It covers the bees and the slits they breathe through with a
film,'' he said. "They suffocate and die in about 30 seconds.''
Ed Skvarch, a commercial horticulture educator with the St. Lucie
County Cooperative Extension Service, said he planned to gather 40 to
50 specimens for verification.
A DNA test is the only way to positively identify the species,
Skvarch said. Even careful examination of the body, especially the
wings, yields only a 70 percent chance of proper identification.
"We need to know (if they're Africanized honeybees),'' Skvarch
said, "so we can start to plot the areas where we're finding them.''
Skvarch said the bees unearthed, "certainly had the
characteristics of Africanized honeybees. For one thing, they chased
the man who disturbed the hive for a good distance, which fits the
scenario. Also, Africanized honeybees are very defensive of their
hive, and these today certainly showed that.''