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. Andy

    Feel bad for the couple but ticked off at the reporter for showing a picture of honey bees when you don't even know what kind of bee it was. As a beekeeper hobbiest I know honey bees are generally a gentle breed.

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

      As a beekeeper, you should know that it had to be honeybees. There are no other "bees" in North America that occur in large enough colonies that could inflict that many stings. Yellowjackets are the only other species of hymenopteran that is a possibility but they aren't technically bees. Another thing, Africanized honeybees are simply everywhere in South Texas (I know because I have worked with them down there), so it is unlikely that is was another type of bee.

      April 20, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • MikeB

      Dan – In addition to the European Honey Bee, there are colonies of "Africanized" honey bees in the southern U.S., including Texas.

      April 20, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      I'll take your word for it and am glad we aren't dealing with those type here in Wisconsin.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. www.completetransportationllc.com

    Wow, thats is so sad

    April 20, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. Puller

    There is a sad lesson in all this:

    Wait until night time before spraying. The bees will all back in the hive for one thing, and they'll all be lethargic with the cooler temperatures. Spray heavily, soak the damn thing . . . . . . .and have an escape route planned – especially if you're in your 90s and need a little extra room for your walker.

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

      The real lesson here is not to F with bees in a confined space, like the inside of your house, unless you are a trained apiculturist or pest removal techinian. You should call a professional, especially if you live in South Texas where practically all feral honey bees are Africanized and are prone to be aggressive.

      April 20, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Propaganda machine

      When I was about 16 years old and living in California, a hive of bees decided to make their home inside the wall of our house next to the front door. They got in through a small crack in the wood somewhere and were becoming a real nuisance since the entrance/exit was so close to our front door. We called in a professional who simply sealed the crack and with it the bees inside the wall. It is extremely difficult to know what the best course of action this couple should have taken was since we don't know the exact set up of the bee hive.

      You should never simply spray a large hive of any kind with poison, especially during the day. Larger hives will protect most of the insects from your initial spraying and allow them to mount an effective counter attack.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TacoSalad

    I dont know what all the buzz is about...

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

      Bad bad.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Quincey9


      April 20, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. TacoSalad

    Dear guy using "your momma" jokes...Im ashamed for you.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • /b/representative

      Yo mamma so stupid that she gave birth to you.

      April 20, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mike

    First and formost my condolences to this unfortunate couple. I'm sorry for their pain. May they rest in Gods arms. Second to anyone with this problem do two things. First if you can possibly afford it please pay professional bee removers to do this job. With our country firmly having an africanized bee population you just can't mess around with bees without knowledge on how to remove them. Second if you must remove the bees yourself do your home work. Study on how to remove bees and how to protect yoursefl from all bee species. Africanized bees can and are removed safely on a daily basis. You just have to know how to do it. Sticking a smoker up a fire place without any protection or plan, should it not work, is just not how it is done. Again my condolences to the family, Mike.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mik

    You have to spray bees in the evening... when it's dark out... bees go to bed and they are a lot more lethargic at night... if you read the CAN of insect killer, it tells you so, right on the freakin' can... I'm sorry for these two old folks.. RIP

    April 20, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • luckyponytoo

      I can barely read the tiny print on those cans, and I'm 36. I doubt someone in their 90s could have. I also have to imagine they didn't realize how large the hive was. Sure, everything is "preventable" looking back at it, but people are not omniscient and able to see every possible risk or scenario ahead of time. You rely on the knowledge you have, your past experience, and your instincts. Sometimes, as in this case, that fails and a tragedy occurs.

      Humans are not perfect, and we're all in the same boat here. Maybe you are an expert in bees would never have this problem, but perhaps you will die by getting kicked in the head by a horse not being aware of the limitations of their eyesight, natural instincts when being startled, and range and power of their kicks.

      As a compassionate human being, I recognize that anyone can make a tragic mistake and feel sad for the pain they endured and for the loss of loved ones by the family and friends.

      April 20, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaytee

      well said luckyponytoo.

      it is very tempting to post comments on these types of stories about all the precautions they could have taken or different steps they should have took and while some "wrong" choices they made are obvious to some, we must remember it may not be common knowledge to everyone. hopefully, those of us who aren't well versed on bee removal can learn something from the story and the comments. no need to be snarky.

      April 20, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. biggal195

    This is very sad. RIP William and Myrtle. It's also frightening. I wonder if this is what is happening to our honey bees (rapidly disappearing). Maybe very agressive species like these are killing them.

    April 20, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seriously

      A very aggressive species (humans) is indeed killing them.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Batman

    Bees... My God...

    April 20, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beeman

      Bats... My God...

      April 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • God

      God... My bats and bees...

      April 20, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • :)


      April 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Knucklehead61

      Ouch....my knuckles

      April 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    You know folks making jokes about this would sing a different tone if something horrible happened to their family. People, so inconsiderate. This is whats wrong with America and the rest of the world. It's all ok as long as it's happeninig to some one else. But let it halppen to them, any bad thing, and they whine and cry like babies. Heres a thought! Have empathy for everyones pain and suffering and pray for those less fortunate than you, no matter the reasons, and treat people like you would want to be treated. If we all did this we could wipe out much pain and suffering. God Bless, Mike.

    April 20, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • fran glass

      that's not americans. it's people in general. depressing.

      April 20, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • /b/representative

      I think that they liked to lick the dick.

      April 20, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Duane W

    I could not imagine a worse way to die, the pain and suffering they must have gone through? I hope they have peace now

    April 20, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Canadian Genius

    I already shared my swarm story as part of the Applebees/ alcohol drink story. Maybe I should have saved it.

    I waited for dark. It says to do that on the label. I don't know if this is the mistake this family made, or not.

    April 20, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. buzz off


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

      Don't think there's anything humorous about this story. Idiot.

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


    April 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Beeman

    Dan, I think you're incorrect about the "all feral bees are Africanized".

    Africanized bees cannot survive cold temps, hence the relegation of their US locales to the southern states.

    I can guarantee you that my hives do not have Africanized genetics.

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

      Hi Beeman,

      I am talking about South Texas, where this incident occurred and where I worked specifically with wild honeybees. Most of the feral bees are Africanized. I can send you the research that I was invovled with if you are really interested.

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

      Give them enough time, and they will evolve to endure colder climates. I predict a creep northwards as they exploit new territories and weaker defenders. But they are also (so I read) evolving somewhat away from hyper-aggression as the genes of the honeybees they displace do have some influence. Where I live, in Silicon Valley, the area is so sanitized that I almost never see bees; there are virtually no mosquitoes, no snakes, few spiders, an occasional rodent (at the sight of a field mouse on the property, the landlords ramp up major extermination efforts);...I grew up in Minnesota amidst a cornucopia of nature... I miss it. I can still run a quarter mile at top speed, which is what you need at least, to get away from Africanized bees. Half a mile is even better. But if I were 90 - probably at that age a bit of dementia caused the gentleman to take on a foe whose ferocity he could not have comprehended. It's an evil way to die, but when I see people in nursing homes - raving, hooked up to tubes and full of bedsores, I'd choose the bees.

      April 20, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
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