Officials trying to determine if 'killer bees' attacked Miss. man

State agriculture officials are trying

to determine if a swarm of bees that attacked an 81-year-old man

and killed his pet dog are Africanized honey bees, commonly known

as killer bees.

State Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell said his department

is investigating Thursday's attack on Taylor Avenue. The dog

appeared to have been stung nearly 1,000 times and Robert Cherry

was stung numerous times when he came to his pet's aid.

The bees were living in Cherry's garage wall and became agitated

and attacked Cherry's Beagle, Theo, according to Cherry's daughter,

Cathy Morie.

Cherry tried to save his dog but sustained five to six stings.

He was suffering a low-grade fever Thursday, but has been


Pascagoula Animal Control Supervisor Ed Holmes said when

officers arrived, they were ill-equipped to deal with the bees and

rescue Theo from his kennel area. The dog, Holmes added, was

covered with bees and may have sustained more than 1,000 stings.

Joey Moesch of Southern Pest Control was called to remove the

bees. Morie said Moesch donned a firefighter's uniform and entered

the fenced area where Theo was and tried to save the dog.

Moesch was able to pull Theo to a clear area, and firefighters

sprayed him and Theo with extinguishers to remove the bees, Holmes


Southern Pest Control personnel exterminated the bees. Spell's

department said that 100 samples of the bees were collected. Their

DNA will be tested at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's

laboratory to determine if they are Africanized.

As a precaution, the state Department of Agriculture is

conducting bee screening and trapping in the immediate area of the

Taylor Avenue swarm to catch other swarms to determine if any

threat of Africanized honey bees exists to the public, Spell's news

release added.

The highly aggressive Africanized bees have already been found

in several southern states, but this is would be one of the first

known attacks in Mississippi.

They are known as "killer bees" because they are easily

provoked, attack in far greater numbers than docile domestic bees

and will chase intruders for up to a quarter of a mile, a lot

further than honey bees.

The killer bees were created when a researcher in Brazil mated

European bees - the traditional honey bees found in North America -

with bees from southern Africa, hoping to produce a hybrid that was

more tolerant of the tropics. The resulting queens were more

aggressive and 26 of them were released in 1957. They bred with

European bees, producing the aggressive hybrid known as killer bees

which spread northward and arrived in Texas in 1990. They have also

been found in Arkansas, Louisiana and some Southwestern states.