Mother's Day canoe trip in Atchafalaya Basin near Ramah ends in bee attack
John Biscoe and his wife stung 10 times, two young sons unharmed
Dr. Jose Villa with the USDA's Honey Bee Breeding and Physiology Research Station in Baton Rouge thinks the Biscoe's may have encountered a relocating swarm, but he said a swarm is typically not aggressive.
When John Biscoe took his wife and two young sons jug-lining Sunday morning near the Ramah boat launch, he was planning on a relaxing Mother’s Day outing with the family.
What he and his wife Rosemarie got instead were a total of 10 bee stings between them when they got caught up in a swarm of bees as they returned to the landing in their Old Town canoe around 1 that afternoon.
“When I heard it, it sounded weird,” said Biscoe, who recently relocated with his family to Jarreau from Maryland. “I didn’t know if it was a freak gust of wind coming through the trees or if it was an airboat coming, and when I turned around and looked, it looked just like the movie ‘Winnie the Pooh’ when the bees chased them.
“It was just a big swarm of bees. I heard them coming, but I probably sat there for about five or six seconds before I saw them.”
Rosemarie was making her way to their pickup truck with 4-month-old Jase while Biscoe stayed behind with Wyatt, 4, to clean up the canoe when the bees arrived.
“Once I saw what they were and what was going on, I yelled to Rose to get in the truck and roll the windows up,” Biscoe said. “She just bolted and took off.”
The canoe had drifted about 10 feet from the bank while Biscoe and Wyatt got it cleaned up, so he snatched his son by the handle on his youth life vest, jumped into the water and made a mad dash for the truck.
“I was only about waist-deep in the water, but it slowed me down enough for the bees to catch me,” he said. “They got me pretty good on the back of my neck, but luckily Wyatt didn’t get any stings.”
When he ran to the truck, Biscoe realized all the windows were still down – and the keys were in the diaper bag back in the canoe.
“It was doing no good to get in the truck really, but luckily by that time they hovered around but the main swarm had left,” he said.
Rosemarie wrapped the boys in a heavy rain jacket that was in the back seat while Biscoe swatted the few remaining bees buzzing inside the cab with his hat.
“That was pretty smart thinking on her part,” he said. “I think that’s when she got her hands stung when she tried to cover up the boys. They didn’t get any stings, so I think that’s what probably helped.”
He still doesn’t know where the bees came from or if he somehow disturbed a hive while jugging.
“On the last jug of the day, I was free-floating the jugs and a bream had gotten into a tree a little bit and got hung up down around the main trunk,” he said. “So I was yanking on the heavy-duty line, lifting the log up and down in the water.
“I remember looking up on the bank and 15 feet of the log was up on the shoreline. I was yanking it and it was moving pretty good, but I would have thought they would have come out faster from there.”
Dr. Jose Villa, a research entomologist with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Honey Bee Breeding and Physiology Research Station in Baton Rouge, said he was unsure of exactly what may have happened in this case.
It could have been a localized colony that somehow the Biscoe’s unknowingly disturbed, or it might have been a true swarm of bees relocating to another location.
But a true swarm is not usually aggressive, he said.
“That sounds like more of a swarm because there’s usually a distinct, very clear loud hum,” Villa said. “You wouldn’t normally get that from a few attacking bees.
“But typically a swarm that’s moving like that will not seek out people to sting.”
He wasn’t sure, but Villa didn’t think the attack resulted from Biscoe yanking the jug line on the stuck log.
“Typically the reaction is more immediate,” he said. “I would say the time between whatever the disturbance is and a good number of bees flying out would be like a minute.”
Biscoe is just happy his family is safe and his two young sons avoided getting stung, and wanted to make everyone aware of what happened.
It wasn’t exactly the relaxing Mother’s Day trip he had planned, but it’s one he and his wife will likely never forget.
“It was an experience,” Biscoe said. “It’s a story to tell people from now on.”
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