Swarming bees kill elderly Texas couple
The species of bee involved in a fatal attack on an elderly couple has not been identified, a Texas paper reports.
April 20th, 2011
10:57 AM ET

Swarming bees kill elderly Texas couple

An elderly Texas couple were killed by bees this week after they apparently tried to remove the insects from a fireplace in a house on a remote ranch, the Valley Morning Star reported Wednesday.

William Steele, 90, died Monday in the house on a ranch outside Hebbronville, Texas, about 100 miles west of Corpus Christi. His wife, Myrtle Steele, 92, died Tuesday after she was flown to a Corpus Christi hospital, the couple's daughter-in-law, Judy Steele, told the newspaper.

Judy Steele told the paper that the bees swarmed when her father-in-law sprayed a hive the insects had built in the small home's fireplace.

Her husband, Richard Steele, was with his parents when the attack occurred, Judy Steele, told the Morning Star. He was also stung but was able to drive several miles to the nearest phone to call emergency services, she said. There is no cell phone service in the remote area, she said.

Jim Hogg County sheriff's deputies responded and told the paper they were able to get Myrtle Steele out of the house.

“We were getting stung in the process, but we were able to place a blanket over her and take her to an awaiting ambulance - we did what we could,” the paper quoted Deputy Reyes Espinoza as saying. William Steele died inside, Espinoza said.

Judy Steele said her mother-in-law was stung more than 300 times.

Espinoza told the paper the species of bee involved in the attack had not been identified and the hive had yet to be removed from the house.

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Filed under: Animals • Bees • Texas
soundoff (379 Responses)
  1. Jazzzzzzz

    My sincerest condolences to the family. I am deathly afraid of bees ...so this one is giving me the HEEBIE JEEBIES.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Lettuce Prey

      I'm right there with ya, Jazzzzzz. I have goose bumps.

      April 20, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • asgardshill

      Ditto. (I'm more afraid of yellowjackets and hornets though, because bees die when they sting you but yellowjackets can hit you again and again ...)

      April 20, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • davetharave

      You and me both. A sad, frightening story.

      April 20, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Hey asgardshill, Thats a stupid reason. Yellowjackets are not killers like bees. Sure you might get a handful of stings, but bees will continue to pursue you at all costs. When they autopsy bee victims, they often find their stomach, lungs, sinus cavity and colon full of bees. Yellowjackets will simply not attack on anywhere close to that scale.

      April 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Propaganda machine

      While its true that bees can only sting you once while wasps/hornets can sting repeatedly, every time a bee stings you it releases a pheromone that enrages any other bees that come in contact with it. A single bee's death from stinging you will alert hundreds or thousands more and draw them to the big target now drawn on you.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Stumbled onto a hive of yellowjackets once and got stung half a dozen times. That sucked bigtime...there's one species I wouldn't mind seeing go extinct.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • iteration2

      since yellowjackets and wasps don't die when they sting you, they're much quicker to do it, so it's much easier to get yourself stung by one accidentally. However, they tend to not congregate in the tens or hundreds of thousands, so you'll only get a small number of stings. To get stung by bees, conversely, you usually have to tick them off deliberately... For instance, by brazenly trying to exterminate their hive. And when you do, you provoke the fury of an entire swarm.

      It's sad that these people learned this the hard way.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • TJ

      Viewing these comments has made me a believer that posts should be shut down.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Krista

    Wonder if they could have just started a smoldering/smoking fire and smoked the bees out. Sorry for the family's loss. RIP

    April 20, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • displeased

      Duh, she's talking about smoking the bee's nest instead of or before spraying them. Smoking bee hives is a way to calm the bees. How do you think bee keepers harvest honey.

      April 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Hey DUH,
      Krista meant to build the fire prior to spraying. Smoke does work to calm the bees down. It disrupts the way they communicate and keeps them from stinging. Bee keepers use it all the time, and it does not harm the bees, My advise to you is to educate yourself before you add a comment like "DUH" which in turn makes you look like the moron we all have you pegged as!

      April 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • meh

      hey duh,,you really are duh, anyone with 100 plus iq knows she meant before spraying or an alternative to spraying...too funny muahhahah

      April 20, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • OvernOut

      If the nest was blocking the chimney flue–I'm guessing that was the case here, maybe that's how they discovered the nest–you couldn't build a fire, the smoke would have backed up into the house.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • umm no

      Or better yet, hired a professional to do the job. At the very least they should have asked a younger family member who could in fact run to come assist them. At 90 and 92 years old, I suspect they were not in any shape to flee if things went badly. Clearly from the article things did go badly, and this is a correct assumption. This is a case where common sense did not prevail and people lost their lives because of it.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • nosnobunny

      From personal experience, I can tell you that some 90ish seniors can be fiercely independent and would rather deal with situations on their own. The last thing some of them will do is ask for help.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mmmmm

    They should have someone test these bees to see if they are Africanized hybrid.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • sherry

      Can we please use Sutler as the test subject...lol

      April 20, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • dan

      All feral bees in this part of the world are Africanized. No test needed.

      April 20, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Soulcatcher


      According to the article the Africanized hybrids have spread throughout southern states and into the north during warmer seasons. Probably you are correct.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marlin

      I live in Texas and find plenty of nests of nonafricanized honeybees as I do restoration work and land clearing.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • dan

      Marlin, if you live in South Texas where Hebronville is located, you are not likely to find non-africanized bees. Also, how would you know if you had Africanized, European, or hybrid? The point is, you don't know unless you are a researcher because it takes careful morphometric analyses or DNA work to determine the lineage. Their behavior isn't definitve proof of their genetics. Honeybees with African genes can be docile sometimes and Europeans can be aggressive.

      If you live in North or East Texas, you are correct that you find plenty of non-africanized bees.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jo

    What a horror story! that poor couple, that is no way to go. Sutler take your meds.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. DYBO

    A horrible way to die. Their old age kept them from being able to run out of the house and minimize the stings.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Propaganda machine

      Exactly. This is usually the same reason why the only people fire ants ever really kill are the elderly. When you trip over an ant mound and break your hip it is hard to crawl away faster than the little demons can envelop you.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lanoom

    Condolences, R.I.P. 🙁

    April 20, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. sherry

    How sad for this couple to have died this way! Well at least they are together....my thoughts are with their loved ones! Come on Sutler, the men in white have your nice white jacket that will hug you nice and tight ready as well as your room...I will be right in to give you your nice pink happy pill.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  8. Paul

    Awful story. But I'm kinda impressed that she is age 92 and survived 300+ stings. They sound like the Texas version of my scrappy and tough old Maine relatives... RIP to the husband and well wishes to the wife.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      oops, i misread, thought she survived 🙁 ignore my post pls

      April 20, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      The husband survived many stings. She didn't. Guess they should have used a bug bomb, or called a professional.

      April 20, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • asrael

      Actually, both husband and wife died, per the article...

      April 20, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. WardHorkin


    April 20, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. David

    So sad. There's nothing funny about this story, not sure why some people need to find humor in it. Sutler and Bender, go find a different article to dispense your sardonic comments on, this one is reserved for people who are compassionate and actually have remorse for others.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • John R

      Once in Vancouver, and again in Phoenix, I've had a swarm of bees pass right over my head while I was walking down a street, right in the middle of urban areas (well, at least the first time I had somewhere to run into). It's an awesome sight, but incredibly scary. This big, yellow-colored cloud of bees, about 100 x 30 feet, all flying in a general mass of bees about 30 feet above your head, moves down the street at about 2 miles per hour. You realize that all you can do is act normal, non-threatening, and try to do nothing, as the bees just seem to be transiting somewhere. But the thought of them somehow becoming angry at anything, and seeing me there as the cause, (or just the scent you give off attracting their attention). I definitely can understand how people can be attacked without much chance to survive.

      April 20, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Missouri Mama

      When I was a little girl growing up in the Midwest in the early 1980's I saw a hive swarming once. They flew from east of our house, past my swingset, right over our garden (where my dad had dove to the ground and hidden amongst the sweet corn because he'd been so busy he didn't see/hear them until they were about 100 ft away), and into the cattle's feedlot. Since I was in the house and too young to have enough sense to be scared for my father, or the dog or even or cows for that matter, I thought it was one of the neatest things I'd ever seen. My dad, and the dog who stayed in her doghouse for the rest of the day, disagreed... Now, with the Africanized Bees, that puts things into a whole new perspective.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Propaganda machine

      Normally bees don't attacked unless provoked. Ways to provoke them obviously include wandering too close to their hive or messing with the hive. As I said elsewhere, bees release a pheromone when their stinger is ripped out, which is what happens when they sting. Theoretically getting stung by a single bee too close to a hive or mass of bees in transit could alert them to your presence and classify you as a threat and summon the wrath of the entire hive.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beez

      When honey bees are swarming as David described they are normally very docile. Usually these bees are from a hive that has split and these bees are looking for a new home. Bees that are on the move like David describes are vulnerable to the environment and most concerned about finding a new home. They have no hive or resources (brood, honey, etc) to defend so aren't agressive. If the bees land on a branch as a large mass, collecting them may be as simple as shaking them into a box. I won't suggest you try that though and Africanized bees are more aggresive and present in the South.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. TN

    Sutler and Bender...you are insensitive idiots. But I am praying for you both anyway.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • David Miller

      ...thank god... no, really, "thanks!" What would anyone do without your prayers? Thanks for supporting the entire world...

      April 20, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. Lib Earl

    Hey, let's face it... bees suck.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Frisk

      bees pollenate 80% of the food we eat. They are a vital part of the food chain. Professionals extract bees from fireplaces, buildings, walls, and all sorts of places safely all the time. This is a tragedy and I"m sorry for this loss, but it is extremely rare and sadly it could have been avoided if they had the resources to extract them differently.

      April 20, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • moderate Texan woman

      No, you suck. Stop being an ID10T. Bees are NECESSARY for thriving ecosystems. Africanized bees are difficult and aggressive around people and you can tell the difference if you just learn a little about them (that's a suggestion for you). Honey bees are all over our place in TX and I generally leave them alone. They don't bother us at all. They are entranced with the sweetness of the flowers and plants. So, please try to find more "age appropriate" words to use, rather than post things a 12 yr would, and to read up a little. Otherwise, while you're ignorantly trying to eradicate "sucky bees", we will all starve. M0R0N.

      April 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam

      Have you not seen the Bee Movie?

      April 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • umm no

      Actually bees are a necessary part of the ecosystem.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Froggy

    This is terrible. I feel really bad for the couple and my heart and prayers go out to their families. This kind of death should only be reserved for evil people.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Shipping Quote

      Good point. Article needs to mention if this old couple was evil or not. If evil, were they evil enough to warrant death by bee sting. Cmon CNN, we need real reporting!

      April 20, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam

      This is a very sad event – but Shipping Point – hilarious.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. John R


    April 20, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. Brickell Princess

    Such a horrible thing to happen.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • MrsMcJoynt

      This is terrible.... and this is why I run from bees and obtain a professional.. you never know what mother nature can do. My heart goes out to their family.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
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