UAB professor rescues workers from thousands of killer bees

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham
Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham(Sean Murphy | Getty Images)
Updated: Jul. 26, 2019 at 4:37 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A professor at UAB braved a swarm of Africanized honey bees, also known as killer bees, to save two workers who were being attacked.

Dr. Olivia Affuso, an associate professor at UAB’s Department of Epidemiology, was at a conference in Orlando in June. She was walking to dinner with one of colleagues when she saw two workers in a lift high above her.

As Affuso approached the two men, she noticed that they were waving their hands and screaming. Affuso realized with horror what was going on.

“I saw that they were surrounded by bees that were stinging them relentlessly, while they screamed for help.” she said.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, attacks by Africanized Honey Bees can be life-threatening. Unlike other bees, the entire hive attacks when it feels threatened, and they will chase a person for up to a quarter of a mile.

Affuso jumped into action when she saw the workers were in danger. She alerted a nearby police officer and the lift operator, who had not been able to hear the workers’ screams.

“I told the police officer to call an ambulance, then the lift operator jumped out of his truck and ran over to the lift to lower his co-workers. As the lift neared the ground, I grabbed the onboard fire extinguisher and started spraying the workers,” Affuso explained.

Bees began stinging her as the lift got closer but she continued to spray. Once the workers were on the ground, Affuso sprayed herself and they all took off running.

“As we ran, my colleague started swatting my head because there were more than a dozen bees in my hair and one in my nostril,” Affuso said.

Doctors found more than 50 stings all over Affuso’s body.

“I felt like I was on fire,” she said. “I can only imagine what the two workers went through when I had that much discomfort, and I was only swarmed for about a minute.”

She later learned the workers did survive the attack.

When asked if she would do it again, she said absolutely.

“I hope that someone else would do the same thing if I were in that situation screaming for help,” Affuso said. “I didn’t even think about it. I just acted instinctively.”

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