RICHARDSON – On Friday, crews removed what was believed to be a hive of so-called 'killer bees'. The swarm was close to homes and considered a public safety hazard.
The big tree is now clear. Two men who work for a bee removal company estimate there were a half million bees surrounding the hive. They conducted an unorthodox test, they believe, to prove the bees were Africanized or so-called "killer bees.”
Bee remover Jefferson Souza displayed his bizarre method for determining whether bees are European honeybees or the very aggressive Africanized bees. He used a teddy bear.
"If they completely swarm the bear, yes, they are Africanized, a hybrid mix of bees, the mean ones," said Souza.
There was bad news. The bees swarmed the teddy bear.
Souza and partner Kyle Lieb kill bees they believe are Africanized. European bees are boxed up for their honey. In this case, they prepared their insecticide.
"We have to exterminate them," said Kyle Lieb, one of the removers. "No beekeeper will take them because they're more aggressive.
Lieb and Souza say just because they wear bee suits doesn't mean they won't get stung.
"So they have to get a grip in order to sting you," said Souza. "So, if they do get a grip, they'll go through. But no, it doesn't hurt anymore."
Once they donned protective armor, Lieb climbed the ladder to the menacing strawberry shaped hive.
"Hopefully, I'll survive this encounter," he said.
As the bee remover started spraying the insecticide, the bees began falling and scattering, exposing several layers of honeycomb.
"Now, they're getting angry," said Lieb.
Once most of the bees moved out, Lieb moved on to his next difficult task: chiseling the honeycombs off the tree.
"For the most part, they'll be pretty much dead within 20 minutes or so," said Lieb.
Texas A&M entomologist Dr. Mike Merchant says all bees in North Texas are, in part, Africanized. Merchant says local European bees have interbred with Africanized ones.
As for the teddy bear test, Dr. Merchant says it may indicate whether the bees are ornery, but not much more.
Africanized honeybees have now been confirmed in nine states from California to Florida. There have been about 20 U.S. deaths attributed to the so-called killer bees. Two of those were last year in South Texas. An elderly couple died after they accidentally disturbed a hive.