The Jump

I’ve had to literally run for my life twice in 6 years from killer bees.  They’re just a fact of life in this part of the country, and no one anywhere is immune from the threat.

I got away without even minor illness, so I guess my luck with killer bees hasn’t run out yet, but I will say this – the previous time was easier to digest mentally, because they were at least living in a common type of bee shelter that I had disturbed without thinking.

But the race I had recently is harder to forget.  I was walking along a clear path, disturbing nothing, and a lawnmower was mowing grass maybe 40 yards away.  Without any warning, and out of nowhere, I realized several extremely angry bees were up at my head trying to sting me, and probably stinging me already.  I started my sprint out of there without actually having seen a single bee.  (In fact, I ended up never seeing any of the bees – only hearing and feeling them, and finding some stingers that were left behind.)

I got a really good jump on the rest of the hive, wherever they were; I was sprinting away in probably less than a second.  What’s actually scary though is later I found small bee stings (with no or very little injected venom) on my torso – meaning additional bees were still hounding me even as I had created some very good separation in such a short period of time!

I supposed your mileage might vary, but I ended up taking the longer path to my house, because the shorter path had some obstructions, and I didn’t want to risk tripping and falling.  The longer path also afforded me the luxury of thinking less.

In the end, there’s really only one good explanation for what happened.  The bees had probably become angry due to the lawnmower noise, and then they happened to find me by accident.  I’m going to have to find the hive later (using a bee suit), but the truth is I have no idea where the bees came from (and if they’re even living on my property), and considering I was doing nothing where I’d expect a bee attack, this was pretty memorable.

In a surprise killer bee attack, humans basically have no advantage, but I’m a believer that getting a good jump is important, and a difference of a few seconds can mean quite a lot.  I’ve figured that if you create enough separation fast enough, it can buy you a tangible amount of extra time to get inside (or in water), and reduce the number of stings, and can also magnify the consequences of any errors that the bees are making.

One thing I would recommend to everyone is that if you have a bunch of keys on your keychain, you should probably mark the key or keys that get you inside your house.  I have a strip of green duct tape around the base of the key that opens my home’s outer door.  It didn’t save my life this time, but in a scenario where I’m not as lucky, it could certainly make a big difference.

In a panic situation, all your fine motor skills will go away, and so you’re probably going to fumble around with your keys trying to find the right one.

The other thing that helped me in this case was the clothing I was wearing.  There are no guarantees, but when bees sting through your clothing, they usually don’t inject as much venom.  So that’s another thing to keep in mind.

And afterwards, I would run all the clothing through the washing machine immediately, take a shower, and not go back outside for a good period of time.  You want to get the bees’ alarm pheromone off of you and off of your clothes, and also let the alarm pheromone that was released into the air dissipate.