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May 25, 2017

Africanized Bees Kill Cayo Grandmother

Cruz Chan

A sixty-year-old woman died after she was stung by killer bees in San Ignacio on Wednesday. Cruz Chan was on her way over to a primary school in the Kontiki Area to pick up her two grandchildren around two-thirty, but she never made it all the way because a swarm of bees attacked her, as well as several parents who were at the school to take their children home. According to residents in the area, a strong wind passed over the area and that is when the bees swarmed the area; that breeze coupled with the sound of children out on break attracted the insects over to the primary school. Classes were cancelled today and Friday because authorities were in the area to remove the killer bees which made their hive just a stone’s throw from the school. News Five’s Andrea Polanco went to San Ignacio today and has more.


Iris Garcia

Iris Garcia, Acting Principal, Arms of Love Primary School

“All of a sudden I heard some commotion. Some parents came running into my class and they were just closing the windows and they were screaming, “Bees, bees, bees.” I managed to open my door and a man was full of bees on his head and he kept screaming, “Don’t open the door. Don’t come out.”


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Those bees came from this tree across from the Arms of Love Primary School. The wild Africanized bees have formed a colony inside the hollow of this tree – and while there were no reports of any attack on human life before – on Wednesday around two-thirty, sixty-year-old Cruz Chan lost hers after she was stung by hundreds of the killer bees.  Students, parents and teachers had to lock themselves inside the classrooms to get away from the bees. Principal Iris Garcia recounts the tragic ordeal – unable to help Chan.


Iris Garcia

“So, we locked up the classroom and the parents stayed in there. Then one of the teachers came knocking on my door saying, ‘Ms Iris a lady is being attacked by bees.’ And when I tried to open my window they didn’t let. The parents didn’t let me because they said, ‘Ms, the bees are coming in.’ So, I tried to open the window and I saw and heard the lady screaming – she was screaming for help and I wanted to come out but the parents didn’t let me. They were concerned about their children inside.”


Chan would walk through this short cut every day to pick up her two grandchildren from school. She was on her way over when she was attacked by the bees. Her house is right around the corner from the Arms of Love Primary School – her family is saddened that she was so close yet they were unable to help her – and one of her grandsons looked on helplessly as the swarm of killer bees attacked her.


Mili Bul

Mili Bul, Niece of Deceased

“Normally, every evening she would go and everything seemed ok. And unexpectedly we got some sad news yesterday about the incident telling us that she got stung by bees. It was a very big tragedy for us because we did not expect something like this. The sad part is we could not do anything to help her at the moment – no one could actually help her.   The smallest son, grandson, Ezekiel, opened the window and saw his grandmother being attacked and he was yelling for someone to help her. From what we were told, one of the police officers tried to cover her but she was stung multiple times by the bees and she fainted and it was too much for her.”


Chan ran into the school grounds – but would later collapse here. The incident left the students traumatized – classes were cancelled for today and on Friday for concerns for the children’s safety.


Iris Garcia

“We were waiting for the police and the ambulance to reach, but no ambulance. So, the police came and I instructed the police man where the lady was. The two police men just run and helped the lady and took the lady to the hospital.”


Andrea Polanco

“She was still alive when they took her away?”


Iris Garcia

“I don’t think so, ma’am. Because by the way – when I saw her she had her head up and she was screaming and then she just let go her head and it went down and when I saw that I said, “That’s it.” It was a very, very terrifying experience and I think all the students are very traumatized because I think some of them were locked up in the bathroom; in the cafeteria and the police had to come and help us with the dismissal of the children class by class.”


A couple students, several parents and even the principal were stung – they were all treated, but two parents and two officers were hospitalized. According to the Principal, they didn’t know that there was a beehive inside the hollow tree trunk– and they believe that a strong wind disturbed the colony.


Iris Garcia

“We didn’t have no word from anybody. We didn’t have knowledge that those bees were there.  It was so unfortunate – everything happened at that minute the light gone. The strong breeze came and I think she was just walking the same time and I think it is where the bees attacked her because of the wind.”


The authorities were called out to remove the bee hive from the tree – and since Wednesday afternoon officers from Ministry of Agriculture’s Central Farm have been trying to get rid of the bees but it wasn’t until this afternoon they were able to remove them. They waited for the swarm to settle and then started a fire in the tree trunk and today they cut down the tree. According to Mario Howe, who works with the national honey program within the ministry, these bees when in the wild are aggressive when disturbed and would make attacks humans and animals – and one should not attempt to remove them – but report it to the Department:


Mario Howe

Mario Howe, Extension Officer, Ministry of Agriculture

“At this time of the year, there is a lot of report coming to our offices. It is because at this time of the year it is the high peak of high swarms within the year – this is the time of the year when the hives tend to be more productive and they multiply more.   These are the same honey bees. We call them ‘Honey Bees’ that we work with, but unfortunately, these types of bees have a natural characteristics to multiply faster than the past bees we had. So, they could swarm if they are not managed properly and once in the wild they multiply, and multiply. This is where the problem comes in – in the wild no body manages the bees. They will find suitable place to live – holes in trees, house and it is the type of bees if not managed they will go to the level of africanisation where they become more aggressive and if they are disturbed they will defend their territory and they will defend any moving objects and probably that is what happened yesterday.”


Andrea Polanco

“Are there any other things that would cause these bees to attack; for example – noises?”


Mario Howe

“That is what I am saying since this is a school they were provoked by noises from the school – children playing all of those things would cause the bees to be disturbed.”


Andrea Polanco

“What advice would you give to people if they spot maybe some bees just out in the wild; in a tree – what should they do?”


Mario Howe

“I would advise people to immediately inform the department – so that we could act; probably we will not be able to act immediately but we would put it in our list to deal with it. We have to ask the public for a little patience and cooperation because, as I tell you, during this time of the year we cannot deal with everything. Only three officers in the entire district and they call you here and you have to move within the district and from Cayo and then to Belmopan. It is time consuming. And dealing with bees is not an easy job. We ask people to be patient but we will deal with it. Also, the next thing that I will say if you see something like these in your homes immediately inform us, especially in homes. We will deal with it immediately; that is what I would say and not to deal with it  – try not to disturb it – the department will deal with it .”


While Chan’s family said they were reliably informed that the bee hive was reported to the authorities several times before this deadly incident, we were not able to confirm that piece of information. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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