Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Beehives along Pinellas Trail removed as fears about Africanized bees rise

LARGO — If you happened to travel the Pinellas Trail just south of Ulmerton Road last week, maybe you saw the orange cones and orange tape marking off two sections of a wall along the east side of the trail. A warning was painted behind the cones.

BEES.

This section of the trail is where a 74-year-old woman was attacked by Africanized (or, yes, "killer") bees last June. Some neighbors called a local TV station and complained that Africanized bees had returned. There were now two hives in the area.

On June 12, the TV station showed up. Pinellas County Parks and Conservation Resources staffers came out and marked off the hives. The county had the hives removed, even though they were on private property.

"Because these were so close to the trail, and it had been alleged they were putting trail users at risk, we had them removed," said Lyle Fowler, operations manager for the county's parks department. "But that's really the responsibility of the private landowner."

The county was right to take the hives down, local bee experts say. But while one expert says aggressive bees are taking over the Tampa Bay area and a human death is inevitable, others scoff at the claim that local beehives are more dangerous than ever.

"The Largo/Seminole area has more aggressive bees, a lot more than there were just three years ago," said Jeff McChesney, inspector with Truly Nolen Pest & Termite Control.

When Betty Livernois was stung more than 50 times by bees behind her Largo home last June, McChesney removed the hive. While he didn't confirm it through testing, he said those bees acted Africanized.

In the 1950s, African honeybees were imported to Brazil in the hopes they'd mate with resident European bees and produce a bee better suited to the tropics. African bees reproduce faster and defend their hives much more aggressively than their European counterparts. The more dangerous hybrid bees spread north.

Africanized bees hit Texas in the 1990s and Florida in the early 2000s via the Port of Tampa. In 2008, Florida had its first Africanized bee fatality when an Okeechobee County man died after being stung more than 100 times.

Pinellas County has never had a fatality, but McChesney thinks the attack in Largo last year was an omen.

"More people are going to be hospitalized, and I really think Pinellas County is going to see a death in the near future," he said.

Jonathan Simkins, an entomologist with Insect IQ in Tampa, disagrees. Simkins has the contract for hive removal on Pinellas County-owned property, and he removed the two hives along the Pinellas Trail recently. As Africanized bees have mated with European bees in the Tampa Bay area, Simkins said, he has seen less aggressive behavior than when the bees first arrived.

Pure African bees will attack any disturbance near their hives. Simkins says these bees let him inspect their hive but attack when he starts removing it.

McChesney and Simkins agree it's bad for any beehive to be near the Pinellas Trail and its stream of potential sting victims.

They also agree that locals should treat any bee sting as if it came from an Africanized bee: Run to an enclosed area, like a house or a car, take the stinger out right away and call a professional to remove the hive.

No matter what Simkins says, though, Bill and Betty Livernois are convinced the bees that attacked them last year were Africanized.

Betty, now 75, fell down as she was coming back from walking her dog on the trail and soon was covered in bees. She suffered more than 50 stings while Bill, 87, was stung more than a dozen times as he tried to help. Betty spent four days in the hospital recovering.

The couple have lived in their home along the trail for 32 years. They'd never seen aggressive bees before last June, they said.

Ever since, Betty has been extra careful when gardening, and she altered her dog-walking path.

"Not out on the trail," said Bill.

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or whobson@tampabay.com. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Beehives along Pinellas Trail removed as fears about Africanized bees rise 06/23/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 23, 2012 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Delta Sigma Theta honors outgoing national president

    Human Interest

    During her four years as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Paulette Walker said she always focused on the comma between "Sorority" and "Inc."

    Paulette Walker, the former director of undergraduate programs and internship in the College of Education at the University of South Florida, will be honored on Saturday for her leadership in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
  2. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  3. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion

    Fire

    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  4. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  5. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.