An elderly California woman was viciously attacked by a swarm of 75,000 Africanized killer bees earlier this week after the hive was disturbed. The 71-year-old was hospitalized after suffering more than 1,000 bee stings, including some in her mouth, according to CBS Los Angeles.
The incident occurred in Palm Desert, a community located about 122 miles east of Los Angeles. Riverside County Fire Department said the attack was reported around 4:40 p.m. Thursday. Firefighters were quickly dispatched to the scene and when they arrived, they found the woman fully covered in bees.
“You couldn’t see her,” California Fire Battalion Chief Mark Williams told the Press Enterprise. "When the first engine company arrived, they described an elderly woman completely covered head-to-toe in bees, as if she was wearing a suit of bees.”
Authorities said the woman was visiting relatives from out of state and had just gotten out of her car when the swarm of killer bees descended upon her. According to the Press Enterprise, the woman’s relatives threw a blanket over her and rushed her inside the house.
"They just went into her car and attacked her," Lance Davis, a local expert, told the Palm Desert Patch of the attack on the woman. "They were mad."
The woman was rushed to the hospital with major injuries. She went into shock, but authorities expect her to recover. During the rescue, several firefighters were also stung on their faces, hands and necks. Three were taken to the hospital.
The bees had built a hive inside an underground Verizon metal box. They were apparently attracted to the vibrations created by the fiber-optic equipment. The hive was disturbed when a Verizon employee came to check on the cable box. When he lifted the lid, the bees went into a frenzy and attacked several neighbors, including the woman who was stung over 1,000 times.
To remove the killer bees, authorities called in Davis, who used smoke to confuse the bees and then vacuumed them up. The bees were taken to his hive and would be used by farmers for crop pollination.
“They’re quick to anger, and they are relentless in their attack,” Davis said. “If it takes the whole hive to protect against an intruder, or someone perceived to be an intruder, they will do it.”
Africanized killer bees were first brought to the Americas in the 1950s in order to breed them with European bees to make a hybrid bee better suited for the tropical South American climate. The first killer bee colonies appeared in the U.S. in 1990. The bees occupy areas all over the southwestern corner of the U.S.
The average person, assuming he isn’t allergic to bees, can withstand about 10 bee stings per pound of body weight, according to the Agricultural Research Service. That means a grown person can survive about 1,500 bee stings.
Watch the short video below, shot by Davis and uploaded to YouTube, of the bee attack in Palm Desert.