First responders learn the buzz on Africanized bees - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

First responders learn the buzz on Africanized bees

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  Africanized bees remain a threat in South Georgia.

Hundreds of emergency responders spent Tuesday learning how to deal with killer bees. It's part of an effort to prepare the community for the spring when more of the aggressive and dangerous bees could show up.

In October, 73-year old Curtis Davis died after he was stung hundreds of times when his bulldozer struck a hive in east Dougherty County.

While a firefighter's turn out gear is helpful, they learned Tuesday they may need beekeeping helmets and other tools on their trucks to deal with a situation involving killer bees.

How Africanized bees ended up in this Williamsburg Road field in southeast Dougherty County is still a mystery. What to do about them now is why hundreds of first responders gathered at the Albany Civic Center. They came from as far as Crisp County.

"Being first responders to incidents we want know what to do in a situation if there is a swarm," said Major Ken Partain, Crisp County Sheriff's Office.

To learn how to rescue victims like Curtis Davis who was covered in bees with hundreds of stings. Firefighters can use foam already on their trucks, but departments are urged to buy bee equipment.

"For those departments to go ahead and invest in some bee veils, invest in some bee suits," said Bill Owens, a bee keeper and firefighter.

Officials also encouraged hospitals to develop a plan.

"They're not all going to die off as fast so trying to deal with that in the back of the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, even when you get to the hospital," said Owens.

The worry is there will be more of these more aggressive, killer bees this spring.

"Spring is the time bees start expanding their nests, it's a time when they start reproducing and making more colonies," said Keith Delaplane, Ph.D. UGA Professor & Extension Entomologist.

That's why when the weather warms more traps like this one will go up in a three mile area and the community is asked not to disturb them.

"If you mess with them we don't know whether we had anything in them on not number two they can be dangerous," said Barry Smith, Georgia Department of Agriculture Program Manager.

Which is why they say bee management through bee keepers is so important, to keep the friendlier European honey bees in Dougherty County in an effort to keep the Africanized bees from taking over.

There were a lot of questions Tuesday from first responders, and officials tried to answer them as best they could. Some have asked for another meeting to inform more first responders.

Officials have tested more than a hundred bees captured in the area. In four different colonies, they found Africanized bees. They will continue to test colonies through the spring.


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