Generally speaking, when talking deadly animal species, bees do not immediately come to mind as particularly life-threatening. However, in the United States they constitute the nation’s second-most lethal animal — because no animal species, not even the combined total of all animal-related deaths, comes anywhere near the number human beings are responsible for with regard to killing each other and themselves (some 57,000 people per annum). But be that as it may, bees are the most likely non-human animal species to kill humans…
Newsweek reported August 16 that bees kill nearly 100 people every year in the United States alone. And this estimate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is considered to be inaccurately low as many bee sting deaths can often be misidentified as deaths attributable to heart attacks, sun stroke, and various other causes.
Although looked upon as pollinators and makers of honey, bees are quite dangerous to those allergic to them. For many, their stings are just a painful nuisance, but those who have developed allergies to bee venom, death can result in as little as 10 minutes if untreated. According to WebMD, an estimated two million Americans are allergic to insect stings of various types. The signs of an adverse allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, hives, swelling of the face, throat, or mouth, anxiety, rapid pulse, and a drop in blood pressure.
The Merck Manual notes that the average person can usually safely tolerate 10 stings for each pound of body weight, which simply means that the average adult could potentially suffer more than 1,000 stings as survive. However, children being smaller, the number of survivable stings can be considerably fewer.
But those are humans with a tolerance to the bee venom. For a person with allergies, even just one sting could be fatal due to an anaphylactic reaction (a life-threatening condition in which blood pressure falls and the airway becomes closed because of the swelling of tissue). Those who react severely to bee venom usually carry carry injectable epinephrine to combat the histamine-induced swelling of a sting. In the US, bee stings are 3 or 4 times more likely to kill an individual than snakebites.
Still, when most people think of deadly — or “killer” — bees, they think of the Africanized honeybee. The species of bee is a very aggressive honeybee and has, via population migration, spread its geographical reach from South America to the southwestern states of the United States. Known to attack in swarms, the numerous stings of these “killer bees” cause severe reactions among their victims and sometimes kill their unfortunate targets. By attacking their victim in swarms, these bees cause a more severe reaction than do other bees.
On June 27, a farmer in Lozano, Texas, was killed, stung over 3,000 times, when he disturbed a massive hive in an irrigation pipe with his tractor. Less than a month before, on May 30, an estimated 40,000 Africanized honeybees attacked and killed a farmer in Waco, Texas. He had simply driven past the bees on his tractor.