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He Mowed Too Close to Killer Bees: 'He Was Just Covered'

Thomas Hicks dies in rare fatal bee attack in West Texas
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2021 11:15 AM CDT
She Told Him Not to Go Near the Bees. Then They Killed Him
A firefighter works with bee handler Joey Venekamp to remove a beehive from a tree in Breckenridge, Texas, following a fatal attack.   (Breckenridge Fire Department)

A West Texas woman says she lost the "love of my life" Monday in an attack by angry bees. Thomas Hicks, 70, suffered cardiac arrest after he was repeatedly stung while mowing his yard in Breckenridge, about 100 miles west of Fort Worth. His widow, Zoni, says she made her husband promise not to mow a back part of the lawn where bees had been spotted before she left to go grocery shopping. When she returned, he was covered in a massive swarm. "I mean you couldn't even see his back and his whole head," Hicks tells KTAB. "He was just covered in killer bees." She says her husband ran into the house, but the bees followed. Hicks was also repeatedly stung, though she was able to administer CPR after Thomas collapsed. Paramedics soon took over, working on her husband for more than an hour, but "they couldn't bring him back."

Bee handler Joey Venekamp says a two-year-old bee hive was found in a hollowed-out tree behind the couple's shed. It contained multiple queen cells, meaning the colony may have outgrown its nest. Some 60,000 bees were removed, per CBS Dallas-Fort Worth, which reports noise from the lawn mower is believed to have triggered the attack. Authorities haven't named the type of bee involved, but Africanized or "killer" bees are particularly sensitive to sounds and vibrations, per NBC News. Venekamp says the first bee to sting Thomas would've let off a pheromone that acts "like a red flag to the other ones," so the "best thing to do is take cover." Firefighters, who entered the home "through a swarm," had to give Hicks protective gear so she could be taken to receive medical treatment at a hospital, per the Dallas Morning News. She has since been released. (More bees stories.)

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