From The Sacramento Bee, Online, 10/24/98:


Authorities trying to determine if 'killer bees' were in swarm that chased ambulance

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) -- DNA tests will be used to determine if it was a swarm of Africanized honey bees that attacked people and chased an ambulance in a community near the Colorado River, San Bernardino County authorities said Friday.

Popularly known as killer bees, Africanized honey bees defend their hives more quickly and pursue intruders more intensively than their common relative, European honey bees.

"It's impossible to be sure just by looking at them," said Dr. Lal Mian, an entomologist with San Bernardino Vector Control, which is investigating the incident at Big River.

Mian said he expected to receive samples late Friday but was unsure when he would have testing results.

The bees had made their home inside a 20-foot tall dead tree near the property, but it is not known what, if anything, provoked them.

An 86-year-old man was apparently mowing his lawn about 10:45 a.m. Thursday when the swarm attacked, said Sue Hood, a county Fire Department dispatch supervisor.

"Then he ran inside to get away from them, but they followed him in and started stinging his 90-year-old wife," she said. There was also a younger caretaker in the home at the time.

The occupants of the house near the Arizona border then called emergency officials.

"Firefighters showed up and then they started to get stung," Ms. Hood said. "They said the swarm followed the ambulance for a half-mile."

The victims were taken to La Paz County Regional Hospital in Parker, Ariz., where they were treated for the stings.

All but the elderly man were released Thursday, said Ms. Hood. His condition was not available.

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