Tommy Donley said it was like something straight out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
Friday, June 22, the Carlton resident was on his riding lawnmower at about three in the afternoon mowing his yard when he felt something hit his ear. “I thought it was a grasshopper,” Donley said.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a grasshopper.
The next thing Donley knew he was being swarmed and stung on his head by bees.
He bolted and ran inside his home and said hundreds were after him. Once inside Donley said the bees covered both entrances to his home and every window.
“I’ve never called 911 in my life,” Donley said. “I didn’t know who to call - I was home alone.” He decided to make the call.
Then he realized all three of his dogs were being attacked. There was nothing to do but go back outside to rescue them. He used an extermination spray on his screen door to try and remove the bees that were clinging to it, to no avail.
First, Donley said he saw his three-month-old bloodhound pup running with his head covered in bees. He chased down the dog and got it into the utility room.
“He had eight or 10 on his head,” Donley said. “I started knocking them off with a towel.”
Another rescue was necessary for his dachshund.
“They were all over me and the little dog both,” Donley said. “They were in the little dog’s doghouse.”
Carlton Volunteer Fire Department Chief Billy Hollingsworth was first on the scene.
“I saw him standing inside the door and bees flying all around,” Hollingsworth said. “I could hear a dog yelping.”
Hollingsworth said he put on the bee suit that he keeps with him at all times because he is accustomed to bee calls. He said as he walked toward the house hundreds of the bees starting hitting his suit and he could see a “big clump of bees up on the eaves.
“I called for the fire truck.”
Hollingsworth made his way through the bees to the back of the house.
That’s where he saw Donley’s white one-year-old 60-pound Siberian Husky/Wolf mix lying on the ground.
“The dog was already down — just lying there,” he said.
“She was covered with bees,” Hollingsworth said. “Her mouth and ears were full of them and they were all over her eyes. I whipped them off and carried her inside.”
Hollingsworth said the dog died shortly after.
“The dog had to have been stung at least a hundred times,” Hollingsworth said. “Every place there was flesh, there was a bee stuck.”
When the fire truck arrived, it was equipped with forestry soap, which is an effective bee killer, he said, but still the bees swarmed.
The EMT workers were unable to get out of the ambulance to treat Donley so Hollingsworth wrapped him in a quilt and led him out to the waiting crew. They drove about 100 yards down the road to get away from the bees.
“These bees were very aggressive,” Hollingsworth said and he believes they were Africanized honeybees because of their behavior.
Hollingsworth said this was the first animal he had seen killed by the bees.
Hollingsworth said he averages about three calls a year on bees and was called out to the Methodist Church for bees the following Sunday.
Hollingsworth said a lady who lived near the “Old Methodist Church” called because she was afraid to let her children go outside after she had seen bees by the church.
“As soon as I stepped out they started hitting and stinging,” Hollingsworth said. “I called for the fire truck again. They covered me. Thousands hit me.”
Hollingsworth said he had the firemen spray him with the forestry soap to try and get them off of him so he could see where he was going, which might have been a mistake he said.
After that the bees stung him through his gloves about 15 times on each hand. He believes after the gloves became wet they lay closer to his skin, which allowed the bees to sting him.
He said the sting burns like a yellow jacket sting.
Hollingsworth said his hands were so swollen that he couldn’t bend his fingers for two days nor could he wear his watch or rings.
His wife said it looked like “he had Herman Munster hands.”
Hollingsworth said after that episode he ordered five new bee suits from Brazil that are made with “triple thickness” used for working with “killer bees.”
He said the bee problem is becoming worse and he wants the suits available to firemen as needed.
The Bee Terminator
“I don’t like to kill bees,” Phil Treece, of Phil’s Pest Control, said. “They are so beneficial. Bees are a good thing - they pollinate crops. I have two hives of European Honey Bees (EHB) in my back yard that I collected in boxes from swarms. I like watching them.
“Usually people call me about bees after they get stung” and that was the case with Donley, he said. Treece said laws prevent anyone from exterminating bees unless they threaten people or livestock, which was the case with Donley.
Treece said the only way to differentiate between a EHB and the more aggressive Africanized Honey Bee (AHB) is to send samples to Texas A&M University for dissection. He said he didn’t send any of Donley’s bees there because he just figured they were the AHB due to the fact they were extremely aggressive.
“The dog was attacked about 70 yards from the house,” Treece said. “That’s one reason I think they were Africanized - I’ve never seen them go that far to attack. Although, they have followed me for a good distance.”
He found the hive to be inside the wall at Donley’s house and treated from the outside.
“It’s not unusual for a hive to be located in a wall,” he said. “Around a house, most of the time, they are in a wall or the eaves.”
Treece said he treats with Tempo dust powder and pumps it directly into the wall or hive.
“I don’t know what it is about Hamilton County but the bees seem to be worse over there,” Treece said.
Treece said anybody dealing with bees should have a protective suit on, “or they are gonna get stung.”
“Some try to kill them with Liquid Seven but they run out of Liquid Seven before they run out of bees,” Treece said.
Treece said the bees are more active during the wet season of March, April and May.
“They swarm because the hive has matured and they are looking for a new area to build a hive during pollinating season,” Treece said.
Treece said when the first bee stings, a pheromone is released.
“This signals other bees to attack,” Treece said. “And they attack the head area because they are attracted to carbon dioxide. So they go for the mouth, nose and eyes. If you are allergic, just one sting can kill you.”
Treece said the exhaust off of a gas weed eater or lawnmower really “aggravates them.” But he said bees warn you before they attack by bumping into you.
“If you feel something hit you, stop what you’re doing and back away at least 25 to 30 feet,” Treece said. “If you don’t they’ll literally tear you up.”
The Damage Done
“When the fire department got here, I finally got her (the Siberian husky/wolf mix dog) to the utility room and she was dead,” Donley said. “I raised her from a puppy.”
Donley said most of the time when he goes outside he moves his two pet parakeets to the porch for fresh air.
“When they came out of the eaves of the house they got the parakeets first,” Donley said. “They didn’t have a chance.”
Donley said he made it to the ambulance with Hollingsworth where EMTs removed bees that were still stuck in his hair. Then they began removing stingers.
“They pulled stingers out of my head for 45 minutes and they wanted me to go to the hospital but I didn’t want to leave my dogs.
“I set up with the little dog (dachshund) that night and pulled stingers out of her head,” Donley said. “They were inside her doghouse and she still won’t go back in it.
“I’m 60 years old and I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Donley said. “You’re not going to outrun them. It’s like they were tracking me.”
Donley has a message he wants to get out to the public.
“Watch your kids and old people,” he said. “These bees could really hurt them or kill them.”
Donley said without the Carlton Volunteer Fire Department he doesn’t know what would have happened.
“I appreciate them and everything they did for me,” Donley said.