TAMPA - Two Tampa park employees were swarmed by as many as 100,000 Africanized honeybees, after they accidentally disturbed a hive. David Zeledon and Rodney Pugh were both removing a pile of trash near the entrance road of Picnic Island Park, when they overturned an old truck tire.
That's when they spilled the bees.
"It was like a thousand little knives poking me in my body," said Pugh, 41, who took off running from a front-end loader that became surrounded by the bees.
"It was like bees all in the cab," Pugh said. "So I'm trying to swat, and they say never to swat bees," he said. Pugh and his partner both tried to escape, but they ended up with nearly 100 stings each.
"My ears were just throbbing with pain," Pugh said. Both men were hospitalized and treated with antibiotics and swelling reducers in case they had an adverse reaction to the stings.
"It's the worst feeling, because you just had so many and they wouldn't stop," Pugh said.
Africanized bees, or killer bees, are similar to typical honeybees, except they are all extremely aggressive and will attack relentlessly if bothered.
Jonathan Simkins of Insect I.Q. was called out to exterminate the hive. He suspects the bees originally came from Africa or South America aboard a port ship. Picnic Island Park is next to Port Tampa.
Simkins said it won't be the last encounter with this dangerous form of bee.
"The problem that we're having is the wild bees," Simkins said. "This pile of rubbish wasn't moved for three years. So this colony's been breeding and sending out colonies," he said, an ominous prediction that there are many more of the killer bees in the Tampa Bay area.
"The European bee will swarm once or twice a year. The African bee will swarm up to 17 times," Simkins said.
One danger with these bees is that they are virtually identical to regular honeybees, which are not as aggressive. If a killer bee hive is disturbed with the thought that it's a regular hive, whoever is in the line of fire will get stung, possibly dozens of times.
"They just keep coming at you," said Simkins, who's helped eradicate numerous killer bee hives.
Both park employees are expected to recover from the attack.
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The prediction by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is more than what's considered an average Atlantic season.