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
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  1. jt

    Never use spray on wasps and yello-jackets in the daytime. Wait till dark, shine a light downward from their nest and let em have it.
    Honeybees are the bomb, they try NOT to hurt you.....these sound like the killer bee variety, and they've been known to attack you just cause they think you are stupid, so if I were Chris and Warren Miller (two posters toward the end), I'd be really careful about walking anywhere they might be building a hive.
    Poor folks, dying like that, your throat swells shut and you cannot breathe...terrible death. Hopefuly they both had heart failure instantly and never knew what was going on. RIP folks.

    April 20, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rod C. Venger

    They probably should have sealed the top of the chimney, tossed two "Bug Bombs" into the room and closed the door.

    About 45 years ago I was mass attacked by bees being transported by a truck on a dirt road in Los Angeles. My brother was there but I got the brunt of it and the house was a mile away. We had our bikes and hauled azz home. We both jumped in the pool and I still had bees stinging me, my brother trying to slap them off. I started puking and passed out, my folks took me to the hospital and I have no idea what they did...they sent me home where I woke up on the couch 3 days later. Bees are one of the few things that really frighten me.

    April 20, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. wowlfie

    Probably honey bees crossed with killer bees. But then tampering with their nests will get almost any bee really angry. Sad these things happen. I almost died by bees myself (hyper allergic). Such is life.

    April 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. dssad

    Any Dr. out there to explain how they died? Respiratory failure? So the death must have been quick.

    April 20, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • TexasRN

      ****NOT*** a doctor! (thankyouverymuch!) But, if you're looking for a medical description of death by hymenoptera stings:
      (Hymenoptera stings account for more deaths in the United States than any other envenomation. The order Hymenoptera includes Apis species, ie, bees (European, African), vespids (wasps, yellow jackets, hornets), and ants. Although most deaths result from immunologic mechanisms, some are from direct toxicity. Severe anaphylactoid reactions occur occasionally when toxins directly stimulate mast cells. While the vast majority of stings cause only minor problems, stings cause a significant number of deaths.)

      Target organs are the skin, vascular system, and respiratory system. Pathology is similar to other immunoglobulin E (IgE)–mediated allergic reactions. Anaphylaxis may occur and is typically a result of sudden systemic release of mast cells and basophil mediators. Urticaria (hives), vasodilation (dilation of all of the blood vessles,which causes a sudden drop in blood pressure as well as the bright redness of the skin), bronchospasm (spasm of the breathing tubes that lead off of the trachea to the lungs), laryngospasm (spasm of the larynx, also called the voice box), and angioedema (swelling of the lips, eyelids,tongue, uvula-that thing that hangs down in the back of your mouth) are prominent symptoms of the reaction. Respiratory arrest may result in refractory cases (likely one would be unconscious before this happened)
      ***bottom line: To put the above into context, these folks were elderly, and likely had underlying health problems (ie, heart disease such as coronary artery disease,etc; high blood pressure, perhaps emphysema) that would only be markedly exacerbated by the bee stings even if no underlying disease, at that advanced age it would be difficult for their cardiovascular system to adapt rapidly enough to prevent them from succombing to such an overwhelming immunological insult***

      April 20, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • TexasRN

      Sorry, meant to answer your question: yes, death would probably occur within 5-10 minutes at most...they also likely felt dizzy and weak as well. It happens very quickly

      April 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Stevie

    Time to call in the honey badgers. They'll take on the bees. Honey badgers are SOBs and don't give a ####.

    April 20, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. 3rdTyrant

    Hmmm. Why not a fire in the fireplace? Not to diminish the tragedy, but that's the route I'd've gone.

    April 20, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Elizabeth

    When I have to leave this world, I hope I leave with my husband....even if it means 300 stings or worse. I can't imagine being together in our 90s and losing him then. My prayers are with their family.

    April 20, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Aubrie

    Don't beekeepers use smoke to subdue and control the bees in their hives? It makes them "go to sleep" or something. If these were in the fireplace already, would a fire have helped this situation?

    April 20, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      they probably would have burned the house down by mistake!

      April 20, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. salliport

    Duh! That was a job for a professional.

    April 20, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mistylynn

    This is terrible!!! They lived all those years and bees took their lives. If only they had called in someone who does this stuff for a living. This makes me very sad.

    April 20, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. fineart

    These Africanized bees continue to sting you because their stingers don't dislodge from their bodies. Each bee might sting you fifty times. Multiply that by five hundred bees.

    April 20, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ladylike

    It's all speculation now as to what kind of bee killed this elderly couple. So sad...........too bad they didn't think it through first.

    April 20, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joe

    The real question here is why would you try to remove the bees yourself and take zero precautions against being stung.

    April 20, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. tom wilmer

    i have gotten rid of many -many bee hives over my life time, and never got stung,i take along pole, wrap an old rag around the end, then lay it down , n soak it in kerosene,the smoke alone, will quite the hive, but before they can ever escape they are burned all up,just keep water or fire exte handy, just incase......this should be done around dusk, when most of the bees are in the hive,THIS REALY DOES WORK, and is safe if common sence is used, like anything.....GOOD B BURNIN........

    April 20, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Tom, if anything this story is about not to do what these people did. This tragedy would have been avoided if they called a professional, preferably a beekeeper. What you are suggesting is equally stupid.

      April 20, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. moloa

    I'm a beekeeper here on Maui. the worst thing you can do to a hive is spray it, you can't get away from them if you don't have protection on. Best bet is call a professional bee remover. It won't be free, but at least you won't be dead.

    April 20, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
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