ST. PETERSBURG — The dog lay dead at the edge of the street.
About 50 yards away, past the empty Gatorade bottles that lined the curb, past the old paint can and the rusted barbecue grill, and beyond the home's tattered wooden walls, about 80,000 bees crawled over their hive.
The bees attacked and killed the pit bull, Boss, and sent his best friend, Mama, to an emergency veterinary hospital late Thursday morning, authorities said. The pair had apparently gotten loose and wandered the St. Petersburg neighborhood before making their way into the back yard of a junk-littered home at 675 23rd Ave. S. The bustling beehive, full of Africanized killer bees, was in the attic.
The dogs' barking attracted the bees, which swarmed and attacked, stinging the dogs each more than 100 times. Boss was dead when police arrived. Mama was struggling to breathe. A neighbor took her to VCA Noah's Place Animal Medical Center. It was unclear whether she would survive.
"Boss was in love with Mama," said Fabian Guzman. "She has over 100 stings. They're not sure if she's going to make it."
Guzman, 28, who owns two other pit bulls, had been caring for the dogs since he found them running loose two weeks ago, he said. He was walking out his front door about 11:30 a.m. Thursday carrying a bowl of food for the animals when he saw that they had broken out of his screened-in porch. Down the street, he saw the thrashing Boss, engulfed in a cloud of bees. He rushed over to try to help and got stung near his eye, he said.
Someone called police. They found the hive, nestled inside the attic on the east side of the home.
Thomas Davis, of Treeman Tree Services, was called to remove the hive, but advised that it would be unwise to do so during the day, when the bees are most aggressive, police said.
"It's a very large hive," said St. Petersburg police Lt. Dennis Bolender. "At this point, we're not able to address the hive until after dark."
Until then, officers waited in front of the home, warning people to avoid the area.
Neighbors complained that the home was unsafe, pointing to the piles of old discarded items in the front yard. "I've been here 18 years, and it has been that way for 18 years," said Tukevia Smith. "I have small kids, and I have complained numerous times about the bees there."
The couple who own the home, Don and Shirley Burns, said they were unaware of the beehive and would have removed it if they had known about it.