OKEECHOBEE, FL. -- The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry, in cooperation with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS) today announced that a resident of Okeechobee County died as a result of being stung over a hundred times by bees that initial lab results indicate are Africanized honey bees (AHB). The victim's name had not been released at the time of this announcement.
Though numerous domestic animals and livestock have been killed by AHB in Florida, if further testing confirms these were AHB, this would be the first human fatality. In other states where AHB are established, there have been over 17 human fatalities since 1990.
The stinging incident happened on April 9 in a rural area in the northwest section of the county. Though details of the incident have not been confirmed, it was reported that the victim was attempting to dismantle a trailer where a nest of bees had been observed by him approximately one week before. County rescue workers transported the victim to an area hospital where he died after being on life support for an extended period. Medical staff indicated that the victim had a fatal allergic reaction to the bee stings.
On April 10, a DPI apiary inspector went to the site of the attack with county fire and rescue personnel to collect samples for laboratory analysis to determine if the bees were Africanized honey bees. The colony has been destroyed.
The samples are being analyzed at DPI's Gainesville laboratory and preliminary testing methods indicate a high probability that the bees are Africanized. Full morphometric testing -- which measures body size, wing and leg length, and other identifying characteristics -- is expected to be completed this week.