PASADENA, Texas -- On five acres of land dotted by a few shade trees in the middle of Pasadena, Cindy Joyner has lived the last 28 years in a custom built home with a swimming pool.
“It’s a beautiful place to live,” she says.
Maybe you’d think one of the downsides of living on such a large tract of land would be the necessity of mowing a lawn as big as a city park, but Joyner actually enjoys riding around on a tractor whacking the grass. At least, most of the time.
Saturday afternoon she was mowing the grass in her backyard when she felt a bee sting on her hand.
“Then, just suddenly, I was covered with them,” she says.
Joyner’s backyard was the site of an attack by an unusually aggressive swarm, an incident that sent her to an emergency room and left an expert wondering whether she’d been stung by so-called “killer bees.” After the attack, she says she suffered symptoms of anaphylactic shock.
She tried to drive away on her tractor, but it ran into a limb on the ground and stalled. So as bees tangled into her hair and stung her head, Joyner jumped to the ground and started running.
“I had a vision in my head that if these bees take me down, I’m just going to be down and I’m going to die,” Joyner says. “I mean, it was very frightening. But I just took off running.”
The bees chased her across her backyard. She lives on a large plot of land, but some other people on her property heard her screaming and ran to help her.
“They couldn’t get ‘em off me,” she recalls. “And I think (a visitor) said, ‘Is there water anywhere around?’ And I went, ‘Yes, the pool.’ So I just took off running and threw my cell phone off to the side and dove into the pool.”
She dropped into the water, submerged her head, then popped back above the surface. She remembers the bees staying around her head for a moment, so she ducked back into the water. Finally, the bees that didn’t drown flew away.
“They were mean bees,” she says.
The bee expert she contacted, Ed Michalik, agrees. He visited the site on Monday wearing a partial bee suit, then quickly retreating when bees started flying toward him.
Michalik plans to return Wednesday to capture whatever bees he can find, then send samples to Texas A&M University to determine whether they’re the more aggressive Africanized variety popularly known as “killer bees.”