A swarm of bees attacked a Florida woman Monday when she was walking her two dogs, killing both dogs and injuring the woman.
Julie Lumley was walking her pugs, Shadow and Zoey, at 10:42 a.m. in Palm City when she was attacked by the bees, according to the Martin County Fire Department.
“I felt one hit my arm, just one, and I brushed it down,” Lumley told ABC affiliate WPBF. “Then all of a sudden they were just on top of us.”
The bees came from a hive in a dead, hollowed out palm tree in a vacant lot. Part of the nest had been blown over by strong winds in the area, according to Martin County Mosquito Control, which removed the nest.
“We filled up a 50-55 pound garbage bag with components of the nest,” Gene Lemire, manager of Mosquito Control for Martin County told ABCNews.com. “It weighed probably 40 pounds.”
More than 10,000 African bees, known by many as “killer bees,” were part of Monday’s attack, Lemire said. He suspects the bees were aggravated by their nest being blown over.
When the bees swarmed, Lumley’s dogs panicked, she said.
“They got scared and wrapped their leashes around my leg and I couldn’t go nowhere because they had me bound up,” Lumley told ABC affiliate WPBF. “I was trying to get the bees off of me, trying to get the dogs loose. Finally, I got Shadow loose and he ran and dropped down by a tree.”
Shadow died immediately and Zoey was taken to a local veterinarian where she died shortly after. Lumley was chased more than 100 feet by the bees and stung 70 times. She was treated at the Martin Memorial Medical Center and released.
Although this type of attack is rare for Martin County, African bees have become more common in recent years, Lemire said.
“Five years ago we went out and did one bee complaint, maybe two a year,” Lemire said. “We probably do 150 a year now. It shows you something has changed.”
African bees are a subtropical bee, Lemire said. They can be seen across the southern part of the United States from Florida to California. Mosquito Control has found them in tree holes, storm drains, underneath trailer boards, and gutters. The number of bee stings it takes to kill a person depends on their body weight and how allergic they are to the bees. It could take anywhere from 500 to 800 stings, Lemire said.
If African bees attack, Lemire recommends getting inside because running from them won’t be enough. This type of bee will chase a victim the length of a football field, he said.
“You can’t jump in a pool and go underneath and go back up,” Lemire said. “True African bees will just hover around the pool waiting to sting you.”
Shadow and Zoey were like service dogs to Lumley and her husband, Jim, who suffers from COPD, a lung disease which makes it difficult for him to breathe.
“They just sensed when he didn’t feel good, they sensed when I didn’t feel good and they would just stay with you, stay by you,” Lumley told WPBF.