Jefferson Souza uses a toy bear to test whether a hive houses aggressive hybrid Africanized bees. The "killer" bees will attack the stuffed animal, but other types will explore the toy peacefully. Souza uses a Bee Suit when around killer bees.
By JEFFREY WEISS
Published: 21 September 2012 10:27 PM
When dangerously aggressive wild animals end up near human homes, the wild animals inevitably lose. Particularly if they’re only the size of a fingertip.
A basketball-size hive of honeybees found in a Richardson Dallas neighborhood buzzed its last Friday morning. Beekeepers called to the scene by city officials had hoped to do a relocation. But that couldn’t happen, explained Jefferson Souza of Little Giant Beekeepers.
“The minute we got close, they started attacking the ladder,” he said.
And that was a clear indication that this was a hive of hybrid Africanized honeybees — the so-called killer bee.
Nothing much about the morning job was special to Souza. Not the size of the hive, not the aggressiveness of the bees, not even needing to climb that ladder more than 30 feet to where the hive sat on a large branch.
“We do this every day,” he said.
Mostly, however, he does it without media scrutiny. But this hive was brought to attention when one of the people on the cul de sac sent a photo to KXAS-TV (Channel 5), which posted the image on its website and called Richardson Dallas officials.
A TV crew, clad fully in protective beekeeper outfits, set up Friday morning directly under the tree to get close-ups of the action.
Souza, who has been doing hive removal for about nine years, carries an effective but simple piece of test equipment in his truck: a stuffed bear about the size of a toy poodle.
When he brings the fake bear near a hive of normal honeybees, they investigate peacefully. A hive of hyper-aggressive Africanized honeybees sends out a suicide swarm that repeatedly stings the bear.
Friday’s hive sent the suicide swarm.
The hybrid bees, first bred from African queens in Brazil in the 1950s, have been in North Texas since the late 1990s.
They can attack people or pets without warning, set off by the vibration of a lawn mower, the wrong scent of perfume, a kid tossing a ball nearby or even someone wearing too much black clothing.
Like some coyotes, wolves and bobcats caught too close to human habitation, the bees had to go. Souza climbed the ladder with a couple of cans of poison, sprayed the hive, and cut it down.
A neighbor watched from several houses down. She refused to give her name. Why? Because hybrid bees aren’t the only critters that show irrational aggression toward some humans.
She was the one who had sent that photo to Channel 5. And she’d been horrified by some of the comments posted on its website, attacking her for being worried about a huge hive near where her children play.
“I totally understand bees and their importance to the environment,” she said. “I have nothing against bees. I had hoped they could be relocated.”
But she never figured to get stung by other people for her concern.
“I never expected the horrible feedback,” she said, “just from posting a picture.”