He had bees on his arms, legs, face, nose and ears. And when Ralph St. Peter opened his mouth to scream, the bees piled in his mouth. Bees went up his shorts and down his shirt.
“My body was totally encased in bees,” St. Peter said, recounting co-workers’ description. “You couldn’t actually see my body. You just saw the frame of my body.”
St. Peter was discharged from Mease Countryside Hospital on Sunday, a day after being stung by more than 500 Africanized honeybees. He still has some pain and discomfort, but he’ll return Monday to cut down the oak where the bees had a hive.
“I’d like to take a couple of days off, but I can’t afford it,” St. Peter said. “If times were a little better, I’d take a day or two off. But it’s not.”
The Weeki Wachee man was working with a crew Saturday afternoon cutting down three trees at a Safety Harbor home.
A crew leader with Johnson Lawn and Landscape of Tarpon Springs, St. Peter was cutting down a limb when a swarm of Africanized honeybees attacked him.
He tried to repel down the tree, but the rope got stuck on some limbs. The bees came from a hollow log that was 8 feet long and 24 inches wide.
Two of St. Peter’s co-workers ran off, but Mike Foster stayed to help. Foster got a knife to St. Peter, who was able to cut the rope and free himself after being stuck in the tree for two to three minutes. Foster was stung 75 times on his hands while trying to get the bees off him, St. Peter said.
“Today it feels like I had a run in with a whole bunch of jellyfish,” St. Peter said Sunday. “That’s how it feels today.
Yesterday, it was downright terrible.”
St. Peter, 44, has been in the tree business for 30 years and has been a certified arborist for 20 years. He has been stung in the past but has never faced anything like he experienced Saturday.
A domestic honeybee will send two or three bees to attack a person, and the rest of the bees will take off with the queen, St. Peter said. Saturday, the Africanized honeybees came as a swarm.
St. Peter said a professional exterminator was hired to get rid of the bees, so he feels confident returning to finish the job.
In the future, St. Peter said he’ll be cautious when working a hollow tree.
“It definitely won’t happen again,” St. Peter said.