Report emanating from Foya, Lofa County indicates that a stinging honey bees attack Tuesday, 20 November 2012 left one person dead and five others critically wounded. Lofa County is situated in the northernmost portion of Liberia, with six political districts, Voinjama serving as the Capital City. The county’s land area measures 9,982 square kilometers (3,854 sq mi), and it is one of 15 counties that comprise the first-level of administrative division in country.
According to the report, a swarm of honey bees Tuesday waged a stinging war on residents of Foya Town, killing an unidentified person and leaving five others wounded and hospitalized. The report reveals that the critically wounded persons are said to currently be receiving medical treatment at the Foya-Borma Hospital in the county.
The report avers that the honey bee’s attack, which is the first of its kind in that part of the country, witnessed the flying insects overtaking every quarter of Foya Town in very huge numbers. The honey bees’ attack, the report maintains, terrified residents of the town and threw them in a state of confusion, with many persons running helter-skelter.
Meanwhile, research shows that there are roughly 20,000 species of bees throughout the world, and that the honeybees or bumblebees species are social bees that live in hives or colonies and are not generally aggressive. The research indicates that the only time bees sting is when an intruder, be it animal or human, comes too close to a nest, disturbs it, or physically harms a bee. The threatened bee will not only sting in defense, but also release an “alarm pheromone” to attract other bees, signaling them to join in the attack.
The research reveals that honeybees are responsible for the characteristic wax hives we associate with bees and beekeeping. Hives have highly organized social structures. A single queen is at the heart of every hive, surrounded by female worker bees. Worker bees serve different functions in different stages of their lives. These bees start off feeding larvae and cleaning the hive, progress to building the honeycomb, and eventually become foragers. Although queen bees and worker bees sting, male bees or drones do not possess stingers.
The research details that because worker bees will release an alarm pheromone if threatened, beekeepers are very careful to avoid accidentally crushing or harming bees when harvesting honey. Many beekeepers wear protective clothing including gloves, a body suit and veiled hat. Some use “bee smokers” to cover up alarm pheromones that might result from working in the hive. Smoke also causes bees to gorge on honey, a natural response to possibly having to move the hive in case of fire.
According to the research, a single bee sting is not much more than irritating, but when bees sting en masse, the result can be lethal. This is particularly true if the victim is allergic to bee venom. An adult weighing 140 pounds would need to receive 1400 stings in an attack, while a child weighing 40 pounds could be at risk with 400 stings.
The research states that worker bees sting only once then die, as the barbed stinger remains lodged in the skin, ripping the bees abdomen away when the bee flies off. Left attached to the topmost portion of the stinger is the venom sac, which can continue to pump venom into the wound for up to 10 minutes.
For this reason doctors recommend removing the stinger as soon as possible, though how this is done is important. Pinching, squeezing or tweezing the stinger can empty the venom sac into the stinger, making things worse. Instead stingers should be removed with a sideways “flicking” motion using a credit card, pocketknife blade, or some similar object.
Bumblebee stingers, the research indicates, are not barbed, so these bees sting multiple times if threatened. Africanized honeybees are more aggressive than common (European) honeybees, but still only attack when the hive or swarm feels threatened. Like the common honeybee, Africanized bees sting only once then die.