100,000 killer bees removed from St. Pete home - WFLA News Channel 8

100,000 killer bees removed from St. Pete home

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Photo of Africanized Killer Bee Photo of Africanized Killer Bee
ST PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) - No one was really quite sure what 100,000 killer bees would look like coming out of the small white house with baby blue trim. But Virginia Gomez wasn't going to take any chances.

She gasped when she heard how many of the bees were living in the house across from her on 23rd Avenue South and then just shook her head.

"That's enough to kill all of us," she said.

Time would later confirm the danger was actually over. Around 11:15 Thursday morning, five and a half hours before Virginia uttered those words, two neighborhood dogs discovered how massive the Africanized Killer Bee hive had gotten in the crawl-space of 636 23rd Ave. South.

Related Story: One dog dead, another injured in bee attack

St. Petersburg Police Detective Barry Books says it appears the dogs escaped from their screened-in porch three doors down. From all evidence it looks like they were after a tub of macaroni and cheese that was in the cluttered yard. It was there where they disturbed the hive.

Books and his partner were two blocks away when they got the call. By the time they made it to the house, the bees were angry.

"As we pulled up we saw a frantic female here running around being chased by bees and two dogs on the ground unresponsive being attacked by bees," Books said.

In the panic, the two dogs got tangled up in the fence in front of the house. Boss, one of the pit bulls, was dead.

"I'd say there were several hundred bees ... in the area around the dogs," Books remembers.

Neighbors ran to use a water hose. Books grabbed his rain jacket and latex gloves, but the bees were relentless. They kept stinging his partner. Eventually the officers pulled Boss and the other dog away from the torment.

"When we got [Boss] out and pulled him to this curb over here...even 10 minutes later the bees were still coming from the hive and going after that dog," Books said.

Neighbors had worried about what could be lurking in the yard where piles of things like an old barbeque pit and flower pots lay.

"I actually sat here on the porch last week and a big raccoon walked right on across and went right in there," Virginia Gomez said. "If necessary, somebody from the neighborhood would've helped him clean it up."

But none of them, including the homeowner, say they expected to see such a massive colony of 80,000 to 100,000 bees.

"I don't know. It's just something that happens in life," said Don Burns, who lives here. "We all have to deal with whatever is in nature."

"I think you need to get your kids, your dogs, everybody, and [you] need to go run and hide," said Rachel Jenkins, a former neighbor.

The city called in a bee expert who believed the hive had gotten so big, they were out looking for somewhere else to live. In his opinion, it would be best to kill the queen then let the thousands of other bees fly away, leaving 23rd Ave. at peace.

"The houses across the street and the ones on either side - we're just going to ask the residents to stay inside," said Sgt. Brian Taylor, who was in charge of helping blocking off the street and warning neighbors what was about to happen out of an abundance of caution. "What we're being told is that when [the bees] leave the nest they're not going to be aggravated. They're not going to be looking to attack or anything of that nature."

Around 5:30, the beekeeper crept into the house. Using a homemade device that was essentially a stick with a Coke bottle at the end of it, he introduced a chemical into the hive which the workers took to the queen. Outside, half a block away, no one saw anything. No swarms. It was quiet.

"As the sun goes down the bees will find a place to shelter for the night and when the sun rises they will find a place to settle down," Sgt. Taylor said. "We've been told it's completely safe. It's not a danger to the community."

With the queen dead and the threat gone, neighbors looked on in relief.

"Yeah not really much to see but it's a good thing they got them out and the neighborhood is clean," neighbor Rachel Jenkins said. "The kids can come back out and play in the streets. It's all good now."

It is unclear what the city will do with the home. In the meantime, the Red Cross is providing arrangements for Don Burns and his wife Shirley. The other dog caught in the attack is in critical condition.

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