A swarm of angry bees killed a Texas landscape lighting technician last week after he unintentionally disrupted their hive and couldn’t escape. Franco Galvan Martinez, 53, was working on a suspended harness from a tree in Austin when tragedy struck.
His friend and pastor, Joe Maldonado, told local media that Galvan Martinez accidentally kicked away his ladder in panic after the first few stings. Galvan Martinez then couldn’t escape the harness to flee the deadly swarm of bees.
An eye witness corroborated the pastor’s story, adding that two men working with Galvan Martinez during the attack tried to help. But they, too, faced dozens of deadly bee stings, and could not reach their coworker in time to save his life.
Experts say that Texas bee hives usually feature a mix of docile European bees and aggressive African bees. According to Austin news station KXAN, firefighters tried to blast the bees away with a hose. Apparently, neighbors knew that a large hive of bees resided at that particular property. However, because it is a private residence, the city government did not ever attempt removal.
The bees likely became more aggressive and killed the Texas landscaper because of his panicked attempt at swatting them away
Galvan Martinez is survived by his wife, two children, and his grandchildren. Described by friends as a “very joyful man,” he was a resident of Seguin, Texas, and worked for Bill Biggadike & Associates, a landscape lighting company.
His wife wrote a heartbreaking tribute on Facebook to commemorate her late husband. “I already miss you so much my beloved husband Franco Galvan Martinez you will always be in my heart. I know you are in a better place in heaven.”
According to the CDC, bee, wasp, and hornet stings account for about 62 deaths per year in the country. The CDC also reports that 80 percent of victims are male. The last bee sting death in Texas occurred just last summer when an elderly man suffered 300 stings in his own backyard in San Antonio.
Entomologist Dr. Justin O. Schmidt said in a 2018 interview to remain calm during a bee attack: never flail your arms or threaten the hive. Dead bees also release a scent to other living bees that danger is near.
“When you see a bee buzzing near your head, I know it’s very satisfying to flap your arms. It just feels so good to swat at it. Don’t do it! Bad news! It’ll make everything worse. The bees feel threatened and their natural response is to rise up together and defend their queen,” he said.
Experts stress that anyone facing a swarm of bees should calmly remove themself from the situation and go indoors, as the bees will likely stay to protect their turf. Fire departments also carry solutions that chemically encourage bees to disperse. Healthy adults without bee sting allergies likely have nothing to fear from an attack — even a massive attack in the hundreds of stings — but it’s always best to mitigate the damage whenever possible.