ASU entomologist can tame the Africanized bee - Fox 2 News Headlines

ASU entomologist can tame the Africanized bee

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -

Bee attacks are becoming more rampant, and increasingly dangerous in the valley. We’re seeing more reports more often of people falling victim.

Whether it's an allergic reaction or hospitalization for a simple sting, it's no laughing matter. It's a serious a problem.

Experts say swarms of Africanized killer bees are here to stay -- in fact they're growing.

We caught up with one bee expert who, through other research, found a way to basically create a kinder gentler bee.

September 21, 2012. The Glendale Fire Department received a 911 call.

Lifeline on 911 call: “Her grandchild is in the home. I guess she is outside yelling ‘help.’”

As crews arrived to the address on Morten Avenue the severity of the situation became all too real.

911 operator: “Okay, so a child is saying that a grandmother is outside yelling for help?”

An aggressive swarm of bees was on the defense. Firefighters had to spray foam on the hives. They took shelter behind special suits, protective gear that prevented the killer bees from getting too close.

“I just remember grabbing ahold of a pole and the bees were in my ears in my eyes, in my nose trying to get into my mouth,” recalls Betty, the victim.

79-year-old Betty was stung nearly 1,000 times. Betty was in the backyard that morning, playing with her granddaughter Whitney, when suddenly the bees surrounded them.

“I was trying to get them off of me and out of me and I was worried about Whitney and I was trying to get her in the house,” says Betty.

Even though she was four at the time, Whitney went straight for her grandma's Lifeline. The operator immediately called for help.

911 operator: “Okay and was this an adult grandchild?”

Lifeline: “No.”

“We will look for the queen bee,” says Dr. Osman Kaftenoglu.

Dr. Osman Kaftenoglu has a Ph.D. in entomology. He works at the ASU Honey Bee Research Lab. His focus is bee behavior and reproduction. He has artificially impregnated dozens of queen bees and what he has learned is that it is actually possible to change the genetic nature of a bee.

“Eventually they will become a European colony if you can turn the queen to a European queen.”

There’s a big difference between the Africanized or killer bees, responsible for all of the attacks in the valley and the bees that Dr. Osman is using in his study. European honey bees are very gentle. They don't attack.

Dr. Osman also showed us a swarm of killer bees and explained that colonies like these will never cease to exist. Instead they'll continue to multiply at an alarming rate because they thrive in Arizona’s climate. The bees, which are already defensive, will grow increasingly so because there will be more honey to protect.

Africanized bees release an anger pheromone. More bees means more attacks.

“Once one of the bees sting the subject then the other bees will try to attack that person. She will get stung 100 times 200 times. 1000 times could be lethal.”

“There have been a few rare cases actually seen at Good Sam where patients have had delayed affects,” says Dr. Kimberlie Graeme.

Dr. Graeme, a toxicologist with Banner Health suggests adults stung more than 100 times seek medical attention right away. Every child should be brought in to get checked out. Bee venom can be deadly.

“It can cause problems with your heart, it can cause liver failure, it can cause renal failure.”

“I guess I had some pretty bad times,” admits Betty.

Doctors spent nearly 6 hours removing the stingers from Betty’s body.

She spent two months in the hospital and a nursing home. She says her memory was affected as a result, but she's glad to put the attack behind her, hopeful no one else suffers the way she did.

Dr. Osman says if you put a queen honey bee into a swarm of killer bees they will eventually change and be nice bees.

Here's what everyone needs to know -- Dr. Osman says if you are attacked, run. He says you can run faster than a bee can fly.

Wash the area that has been stung. That could remove some of the anger pheromone and the other bees might not attack as a result.

Flick off the stinger -- don’t squeeze it that pumps more venom in. And if you see a swarm do not approach or bother it. Call an exterminator or bee keeper to remove it.

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