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'Extraordinary' Swarm Of Aggressive Bees Attack NJ Beekeepers

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(istockphoto)

Two amateur beekeepers were attacked by their own bees in a residential New Jersey neighborhood on Sunday, prompting a local Office of Emergency Management to issue a warning for nearby residents to remain inside until the "aggressive" swarm had been contained. Such behavior, according to bee experts, is highly unusual, and almost unprecedented for the region.

"I've never seen something like this in forty years of beekeeping," retired NYPD cop and bee guru Anthony "Tony Bees" Planakis told Gothamist. "If what they're saying really happened, that's extraordinary."


According to a statement issued by the Ramsey, NJ Office of Emergency Management, the hive was accidentally disturbed on Saturday afternoon, leading the bees to disperse throughout the northern New Jersey town. The amateur beekeeper, who kept the hive in his private residence, was found unconscious in his driveway. His wife was also hospitalized for stings.

Ramsey Police Chief Bryan Gurney, who was stung on the scene as well, told NJ.com that it was unclear what set off the bees, but speculated that the state might investigate whether or not these bees were Africanized.

Commonly known as "killer bees," the invasive species is known to chase humans up to a quarter of a mile, and for their excessive quantity of stinging. They've appeared in the South and West coasts, but aren't known to be living this far North. According to Planakis, however, it's not impossible for African bees to survive in the region.

"If those bees are in fact Africanized, it’s not a natural migration, but a man-made migration" he said. "But it’s a possibility that they could live up here under ideal conditions—probably in the rafters of someone's home."

Planakis emphasized that he didn't want to speculate before the DNA of the bees had been tested, but added that videos of the stings seemed to suggest the mark of the "killer bees."

"If you look at these stings, how close together they are, the last time I've seen something like that was in a documentary of Africanized bees," he said. "Now, the detective work begins."