A 6-year-old Rottweiler named Ricco was killed Thursday when a swarm of bees attacked the dog in a backyard in West Park, according to Broward Sheriff’s Fire Rescue.
Owner Robert Denmark, 65, was washing his 80-pound dog in the yard behind his home in the 4900 block of Southwest 22nd Street when the bees emerged from a hive in a large tree in a neighbor’s yard around 3 p.m.
“They started getting on [Ricco] because the shampoo I was using was attracting them to him,” Denmark said. “I didn’t know a nest was over there and all of a sudden they just started swarming down and they just covered my face.”
He turned the hose on them, but that did nothing to discourage the aggressive insects.
“The only way I got them off me was I lit a fire,” he said. “I went in my shed and got some mineral spirits and poured it on a rag and lit it and waved it.”
Denmark ran inside his house and called 911. Arriving firefighters were confronted by the swarm, fire rescue spokesman Mike Jachles said.
“They rescued the man and got him to safety,” he said. “The dog was stung numerous times [and Denmark] drove the dog to the vet, but unfortunately the dog didn’t make it.”
Denmark’s wife, Cyntheria, and her small Shih Tzu, named Cautious, were playing it safe. They stayed inside their home and were not stung.
Neighbor Beatrice Rivera called Rolie Calzadilla with Bird and Bee Removal to get rid of the hive, which was in a void in the base of the tree trunk.
“I used an insecticide smoke and a dust,” Calzadilla said. “The smoke penetrates everything [and] when the smoke got in it sounded like a helicopter in the hive.”
He then sealed off the opening with wire and foam and sprinkled a little more insecticide dust because the hive was entrenched in the tree trunk and could not be removed, he said.
“In this case, the ‘kill and seal’ is the way to go,” Calzadilla said. “But I always tell the homeowner that between a week and 30 days [after the bees' discovery] it’s best to remove the tree.”
A few stray bees were seen buzzing around the sealed opening as the sun set.
“The stragglers are still coming back from the field, so the bees are coming back and saying, ‘What happened here?’” he said.
Calzadilla estimated there had been up to 50,000 bees inside the tree and the homeowners had no idea.
“I hardly go back there, so it didn’t even dawn on me,” Willie Rivera said. “I’m really shocked.”
He was at work when he got the call from his wife.
“When I got home I saw all the commotion and heard about the neighbor who got bit, then I heard about the dog that died [and] I felt really bad about what happened,” he said.
Without microscopic confirmation from an entomologist it was unknown whether the bees were Africanized honey bees, but everything points to them being “killer bees,” Calzadilla said.
“If they killed the dog and they’re aggressive, chances are they are Africanized just by their behavior,” he said.
It’s not the first time bees have killed in South Florida.
In 2008, Palm Beach County resident Nancy Hill, 70, and her three dogs were swarmed by bees. She survived but the dogs died. Bees have been known to kill horses in central Florida, but there is no record of a human death related to killer bees in Florida.
Calzadilla said the problem will only get worse as the aggressive Africanized bees cross-breed with the more passive European bees.
“The queen lays about 1,500 eggs per day and bees live up to 42 days,” he said. “So do the math.”