In a nightmare scenario, a California woman was attacked by a swarm of up to 80,000 bees on Monday. After sustaining over 200 bee stings, the middle-aged woman—identified only by her first name Maria—is now in critical condition at Saddleback Hospital in nearby Laguna Hills, but she is expected to survive.
The gruesome attack took place on the residential 23000 block of Buckland Lane in Lake Forest, California, where Maria was working as a house cleaner. While walking out to her car to retrieve supplies, she passed a bush concealing a huge hive of invasive Africanized bees, which are nicknamed “killer bees” due to their deadly aggression.
Tens of thousands of bees engulfed Maria, to the horror of bystanders, who called 911. Paramedics and firefighters from the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) responded to the call, and sprayed Maria with a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher to partially remove the swarm. She was barely conscious by the time she was rescued.
“[The bees] were almost in clusters […] all over her,” Ryan Wilson, an OCFA paramedic at the scene, told NBC4. “She had them on her face, around her mouth, around her ears, her neck and her hair.”
Wilson was one of many witnesses attacked by the bees during the rescue. At least two first responders and one bystander were briefly hospitalized. The bees were also not fully removed from Maria until well after she arrived at the hospital, according to OCFA caption Tony Bommarito.
“Bees were in the ambulance en route to the hospital,” Bommarito told PEOPLE. “Bees went into the emergency room with her.”
Over the past two days, exterminators have removed the hive of Africanized bees. These deadly insects were first introduced to the Americas in 1956; they were imported to Brazil to boost honey production.
Their feral descendants are hybrids of Western and African honey bees, and they have crept ever northward over the decades. Africanized bees now occupy an enormous swath of the American southwest. Hundreds of people have been killed by these invasive bees, including an Arizona landscaper who died last year after a swarm of 100,000 bees attacked him.
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