A 71-year-old woman was expected to recover after she was stung by a swarm of bees that completely covered her in an attack on Thursday, March 6, in Palm Desert.
“You couldn’t see her,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Mark Williams, who was the incident commander.
She was believed to have suffered 1,000 stings. Lance Davis, owner of Lance Davis Killer Bee Live Removal in Palm Desert, said 75,000 to 80,000 Africanized honey bees that were found in an underground Verizon vault on Lucerne Drive stung a Verizon employee who opened the vault about 4:40 p.m. and then vented their wrath on the woman, who was nearby.
“They’re quick to anger, and they are relentless in their attack,” said Davis, who removed the bees. “If it takes the whole hive to protect against an intruder, or someone perceived to be an intruder, they will do it.”
The woman was visiting relatives from out of state. She had just gotten out of her car and was unable to move quickly. Davis said her relatives threw a blanket over her and rushed her inside.
Five Cal Fire firefighters — three who assisted the woman and two who tried to keep others away from the scene — were hospitalized after being stung. Williams said all five returned to duty after being treated.
Davis said the bees were likely attracted to the underground vault because they were unlikely to be disturbed there and because it was cool inside. Bees also like attics and walls for those reasons, Davis said.
He removed the bees first by blowing smoke into the hive. The smoke confuses the pheromones, a secreted chemical that sends a signal to other bees to attack en masse. Davis was then able to vacuum up the bees.
He them took them to his hive in Thermal and later gave them to farmers for crop pollination. Davis said there is not one bee left at the underground vault. He added that his company provides services to emergency agencies for free.
Davis said anyone who sees bees should not approach them. Experts should be called in to remove them, he said.