Animal Welfare

A Swarm of Bees Killed Two Horses in Tarrant County. Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Meet Chip and Trump, Pantego resident Kristen Beauregard's prize miniature ponies. As of Wednesday afternoon, they were healthy and contented. By that evening, they were dead.

Their end came after the pair was swarmed by 30,000 bees that emerged from a nearby shed. "They were chasing us down, they were following us," Beauregard told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We swept up piles and piles of them. ... It was like a bad movie."

Beauregard was stung 200 times, her boyfriend 50. But it was the horses who suffered the worst. They were so thoroughly covered in bees that they shimmered. Chip died before a veterinarian could arrive. Trump lasted until Monday. Five hens were also killed.

The attack is believed to be the work of Africanized bees, a particularly angry species that entered the U.S. a quarter century ago after escaping from South American beekeepers, going feral, and beginning a seemingly unstoppable northward migration.

The government and agricultural researchers would like everyone to remain calm. The USDA says they have been unfairly maligned and that the "killer bees" label is the result of melodramatic "Hollywood hype." Texas A&M's agricultural extension center notes that, while Africanized bees are 10 times more likely to sting than their European counterparts, they don't do so unless disturbed.

"Since 1990, only 8 fatalities in the US have been caused by honey bees, as compared to 78 killed by dogs," they report.

That number is up to at least nine since a Waco man was stung to death earlier this year, and it's hardly reassuring in the first place.The mental image of thousands of stinging insects injecting enough venom to kill a horse is hard to shake. And check out the USDA's time-lapse map showing the spread of Africanized bees over time. Notice how it stops in 2003. The logical explanation is that that's when the bees reached the mapmakers' research station, overwhelming its defenses and killing everyone inside.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson