JUPITER FARMS, FL (WFLX) - A man, who disturbed a bee hive, on his lawnmower Monday in Jupiter Farms says he was saved by strangers after he was stung 450 to 500 times over his body and on his head.
Tuesday, Timothy Marsh said he was out of the hospital, but still recovering with the help of pain medication and rest. He said he was thankful for the help of strangers. He doesn't believe he would be alive if it weren't for their help.
First responders from Station 14 of Palm Beach County Fire Rescue described the unusual and terrible sight they witnessed on arrival. The victim was swarmed in so many bees; it looked like he was surrounded by a black cloud. The man was flailing his arms, trying to get the bees off his body.
Palm Beach County Fire Rescue crews have received some guidance about bees in recent years, but it's unusual they encounter them.
A bystander had called dispatchers to give rescuers detailed information. Lieutenant Rodney Riccardi and Rescue Paramedic David Lincoln say they formulated a plan as they drove, then quickly decided what to do once they arrived at the scene. They yelled to the victim, and Marsh had enough wits about him to listen.
"It was just a cloud of bees around this poor guy, and he was rolling on the ground, and he was flailing his hands, to try to get these bees of his body, mostly his face and his head," Lieutenant Riccardi said.
The first responders had mere moments to react, and could see the victim was in terrible pain, physically exhausted from his ordeal. "So we hit him with the CO2 extinguisher, a little bit of foam from the water cannon, and he got into the truck. And there was still some bees in the truck, but at that point he was in so much pain and just so much agony, at least he wasn't being stung anymore at that time," explained Paramedic Lincoln.
The men say, once the victim was in the truck with the door closed, they draped him in a blanket, pressing down, crunching the bees they could feel between the fabric. It felt like porcupine quills, they say.
Soon, they could take a look at the man and realized how many stings he had received. They had to multiply what they counted to estimate more than 150 stings to his chest alone. There were more on his head and neck.
The victim says, his head was shaved by doctors so they could pluck more stingers from his scalp. The attack left him still swollen, in pain, with headaches and a racing heart, he says.
Bee expert Brendhan Horne with Bee Barf Apiaries says he has a healthy respect for what bees can do. He has saved about a half million bees and their hives, placing them at the organic Solace Farm so they can help with pollination.
One in three bites of food you eat is harvested from pollinators, particularly bees. Populations of bees are on the decline across the nation, threatening agriculture, experts say.
As Horne approaches the hives, he puffs his smoker. It is smoldering and filled with wood chips. "Basically just keep the bees calm and stuff when you're inspecting the hives," he explains, walking toward the multi-colored boxes.
Horne says he has been stung thousands of times during the last decade. He has corralled the insects from businesses, homes, trees, even the backs of signs across Palm Beach County. "The bees stay here year round," he said.
He says when hive is disturbed the bees get angry. Among endless possibilities, a lawnmower, for example, can rile bees up through vibrations. One sting brings more bees to a person, and they can chase a person one or two hundred yards.
People can take some action if they're ever attacked. "If you cannot run away, then the best thing you can do is to seek shelter. what you want to be able to do is get into your car, close the doors, roll up the windows, turn the air conditioning on cold," he said.
Horne warns that people should drive away from the initial attack before opening the doors of the car. While there are hundreds inside the car with you, and it hurts to be stung, there could be thousands more waiting outside if you get out at the same place.
Going into a house and jumping into a shower is also fine, but he warns against jumping into a body of water like a pool or a canal. "You're going to come up to the surface for air and angry bees target carbon dioxide sources," he said.
In other words, the bees go straight for your mouth. "Achieve distance. The more distance, the better," he said.
If you have an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.
Bee Barf Apiaries removes and rescues bees from various properties, call 561-666-8BEE(233).