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Medics stung helping father and son attacked by bees

The father and son were hospitalized with serious injuries after accidentally stepping on a wasp's nest

By Tiffany Walden
Orlando Sentinel

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. — A 911 call released Tuesday details the "swarming attack" that injured a father and son walking their dog in Altamonte Springs last week.

"Two people just came out of the woods, covered in bees and yelling for help," the 911 caller told dispatchers. "They're saying they can't breathe."

The dispatch report didn't name the victims or detail the type of insect involved in the attack. It only referred to the incident as a "swarming attack" with bees, wasps or hornets. But according to media reports, David Alvarez and his 7-year-old son, Jordan, were attacked as they walked with their dog near the Little Wekiva River Wednesday evening.

The 911 caller said he was driving down the road when he saw the man and child.

He reported the incident from his car parked at 737 Mahogany Lane near Trout Lake, where he sat with the windows closed because the insects were swarming everywhere.

"Ah. One of them got in my car, stinging me," the caller said. "The man is laying down, looking like he might be about to pass out. The boy is sitting up, screaming."

The caller then had to get out of his car to battle one of the insects that had gotten inside his shirt. The dispatcher continued to ask him about the victims, who he said were screaming in pain.

Paramedics arrived at the scene about 7:41 p.m.

At that time, the victims were conscious and breathing. Two emergency responders were stung while trying to assist the victims, the report said.

The father and son were taken to Florida Hospital Altamonte and Orlando with serious injuries.

Either the dog, father or son accidentally stepped on a wasp's nest and the aggressive insects immediately went into defense, according to media reports.

Media reports said the man is allergic to hornets.

Edmund Thralls, an urban horticulture agent in Orange County, said multiple stings from wasps, hornets or bees can send a person into shock — or even kill them — depending on how sensitive their body is to the stinger's venom.

"There can be thousands of [yellow jackets] in the nest and they can defend their home very aggressively," Thralls said.

Thralls described wasps, hornets and bees as being in the same insect family. But they differ in feeding habits, personality and body design, he said.

Bees have hairy bodies. They live off pollen and nectar, which is why they are attracted to flowers. Bees can only sting once — whereas wasps can sting multiple times.

Wasps generally have a minor role in pollination and less body hair. They are categorized into three types: parasitic, solitary hunting and social wasps.

"Parasitic and many hunting wasps are considered beneficial because they eat insects and use insects as a place to lay their eggs," Thralls said.

But the social wasps — yellow jackets, for example — live in large, underground colonies mostly and attack when they feel threatened, Thralls said.

As for hornets, Thralls said they build nests above ground and aren't usually involved in massive stinging incidents.

"The most common are the yellow jackets, accounting for the overwhelming majority of stinging incidents in the [Florida]," Thralls said.

Wasps, bees and hornets tend to be a nuisance year-round in Florida because of the warm climate. They usually build their nests in the spring, and are fully active through the fall.

"Advice for people is just to be vigilant," Thralls said. "Know your surrounding and know if you're allergic to the venom."

Here are some tips from Thralls to avoid swarms of wasps, bees and hornets:

•Keep lids on garbage cans and empty the cans frequently.

•Clean outdoor grills after cooking to remove food residue, which may attract wasps and bees.

•Avoid swatting at bees and wasps, which will irritate them and send them into attack.

•Instead, walk away calmly from wasps, bees or hornets if you see them swarming.


©2014 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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