Africanized bees are just one group of inhabitants of the Sonoran Desert. ;They have been here for a couple decades and interbred with the “original” European bees that we have come to think of as natural inhabitants of the desert. This morning I had my first real encounter with them.
It had been a difficult morning to start with, before the interaction with the bees, as we have a stray dog in our home until we figure out what to do with him.
We were on our way home from grabbing a bite to eat last evening when we saw a young dog, obviously not very streetwise, darting into the side street we were on, then onto the sidewalk, and back into the street. We stopped, a single woman stopped. The dog was pretty skittish, afraid of men, more accepting of women. No one in the neighborhood knew to whom he belonged. A young man on a pimped out high handlebar bicycle stopped. We hung around looking for the owner. One woman volunteered that she had seen the dog running around the neighborhood, one of low rent apartments for the most part, next to a very busy business corridor. The dog appeared to be under six months old, clean, and not too thirsty. He had no tag on but had a collar.
We ended up getting him into our car and brought him home. We put a picture of him on our neighborhood’s list serve and asked folks to forward to anyone they might know in the neighborhood in which we found him. He is a sweet mixed breed, golden tan, probably a bit of pit, shepherd, lab, in other words the typical Tucson street dog. My husband was on the way to the Humane Society this morning but they don’t open for drop offs, with a $35 fee, until 11 a.m.
At about 9:15 a.m., before my husband returned with the stray pup, a knock on the front door and a male voice saying, “Your dogs are being eaten alive by bees in the backyard.” I ran and got Mr Worf, named after the Klingon, and Miss Daisy, named after Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, inside the house. The yard I had put them out into a few minutes earlier was empty. I ran to the other back door and called for them. They were running through the sprinklers and rolling in the compost pile try to get away from a swarm of bees. They had jumped a 4 ft. tall gate, from the patio area into another of our yards. The sprinkler just happened to be cycling on.
Several swarming bees came in on the dogs but they had already stung the dogs and were dying. somehow I managed to get them inside without too many bees coming in with them. They had obviously been stung many, many times. Smaller dogs would have been dead already. I looked for Benadryl in the medicine cabinet but we did not have any. I called my husband to tell him he needed to take our dogs to the vet immediately. He didn’t have his phone. I ran his phone out to hhim and told him to get back in the car away from the bees with the stray he had with him. I called my husband who was back in the car. I had dashed back in the house and found our big Neopolitan Mastiff had bloody diarrhea, was vomiting foamy bile, and was going into shock. Our smaller mixed breed who has much thicker fur and probably did not get as many stings was curled up in a chair shaking. I realized I was going to have to wait for the front porch to be relatively free of bees and make another mad dash with our dogs and switch out our dogs for the stray which my husband had.
We did this and only managed a couple more stings to the pup and my husband. Somehow I did not get stung. My husband called 911 to find out what to do. He took off for an emergency vet, our vet was not in, and let me know the Fire Department was on the way.
When the emergency folks, Fire Department Paramedics, showed up in fire gear and netting they told me that an exterminator was in the commercial property parking lot behind us looking for the hive and wanted to get on our property to sse if the swarm was coming from a hive on our property. He would come talk to me. I told them that if the hive was on our property that we would pay for removal. Once it became a private hazard that was being managed, the Fire Department could leave.
The exterminator found the hive in an old cinder block wall that was obscured from view by a massive climbing rose bush that around here is called a Tombstone Rose, which is actually the Lady Victoria Banks rose, Oleander, a pomegranate, and an orange tree. He sprayed and pluugged up the entrance points to the hive. Apparently they had entered around a water pipe that goes through the wall.
I’m trying to stay calm but both our dogs are in pretty bad shape. The vet was able to get the antihistamine to them, one dog required an IV, but apparently it was in time to save them, but I’m watching them both closely and trying to get them to drink water. Mr Worf, our 160 lb. Italian mastiff is groaning constantly and is obviously in a great deal of pain. His back legs are shakey when he stands and he has swollen spots all over his body including his back haunches that have the least amount of fur.
Miss Daisy, our 8 year old, tiger striped, mixed breed rescue dog has vomited up at least two bees. She is not making a sound but is just curled up and obviously not well.
I almost lost my dogs today, and if the person who came to the door to warn me about them being attacked had not done so, they would both have died. I don’t even know who to thank. I know who to blame. I am at fault.
For those of us who live where Africanized bees live, and in the U.S. that is where ever there are not prolonged hard freezing temperatures, we have to be more than passively diligent in looking for places where hives could exist.
This is so frightening. We had seen no bee activity in the yard and had been outside every day over the last week. What we should have done, and what I will certainly do in the future is to inspect our yard thoroughly and often for cracks, and even tiny inroads in to structtures or the ground around pipes and such. We already move any containers and such routinely to make sure nothing has colonized the inside oor underneath the objects. We have to do much more than that. Calking around any pipe, wiring, entry points no matter how small into a structure should be treated as a potential nesting site.
Because we live in the central city area of a relatively large urban area, and not on the suburban outskirts, we mistakenly thought we were not at high risk for bee colonization. We were wrong.
From now on we will take:
Regularly scheduled exterior checks of all building surfaces
for holes, cracks and other potential sources for bee entry into walls, containers, the ground near walls, fences, trees, and basically just everywhere.
Numbers for emergency vet and exterminator who can provide immediate response
entered into all our phones and posted on the emergency call list by the house phone.
Benadryl will also be in our medicine cabinets
for immediate administration to people and dogs who are responding to a bee sting or other allergic reaction. Vets or poison control can tell you how much to administer in an emergency situation.
Emergency preparedness and prevention is very important. Please do not neglect prophylactic measures you can take to prevent things that could happen where you live. I know I will not neglect incorporating such behaviors into a routine in the future.
Mr. Worf died at 6:30 p.m. today. Daisy is eating and drinking and moving around fairly well but we are watching her with caution and hope.