Hennie’s battle with the bees

Hennie Kemp, from Brackenfell, had an encounter with a swarm of bees last week.

Hennie Kemp says paramedics saved his life after hundreds of bees stung him while he was working in a Kuils River garden.

Mr Kemp, 47, from Brackenfell, owns Lower Groen Tuindienste.

On Monday February 6, he and some of his staff were working along a client’s garden wall when one of Mr Kemp’s workers accidentally stuck a spade under the wall, hitting a hive on the ground of a neighbouring property.

The bees attacked the men, but when Mr Kemp went to his bakkie, parked nearby, the bees homed in on him.

“The bees got crazy,” Mr Kemp said.

The bees continued to target Mr Kemp, stinging him relentlessly, while his workers were only stung a few times.

One of the workers used a leaf blower to get the bees off Mr Kemp, but without success.

“I had to jump into the pool,” Mr Kemp said.

Although he was battling to breathe at this time, he forced himself under the water to escape the bees.

But the bees “hung around” and continued to attack him each time he surfaced for air.

He kept submerging himself, coming up periodically for air, until Netcare 911 paramedics arrived half an hour later.

“My head was burning and felt like it was going to explode,” Mr Kemp said.

According to Netcare’s Athlenda Mathe, paramedics Ronnie Havenga, Charlton Grewe, Cole Taljaard and Monde Siyephu braved stings from the furious swarm to reach Mr Kemp and get him to the ambulance where some of the bees followed them.

“The paramedics had to open the windows to get rid of the bees,” Mr Kemp said.

He was admitted to Kuils River Hospital and discharged on Wednesday February 15 with medication for the swelling.

“After this, I’ll be allergic to bee stings,” Mr Kemp said. “I have to carry cortisone with me now.”

He and his fiancée, Marietta Bean, are still removing the stings from his arms and legs.

“There are thousands of them,” Ms Bean said.

While the pain has subsided, Mr Kemp said the swelling in his face was slowly going down.

“I want to thank the paramedics because they saved my life. And I want to thank my client, Lou van der Walt, he helped me and drove my bakkie home for me that day. He really is a good friend,” he said.

Netcare spokesman Chris Botha said summer was bee season, a time when smaller swarms broke away from the main hive with a new queen to make a new hive.

Mr Botha, who is also a bee farmer, said diving into water was not the best way to fend off a bee attack.

“Bees don’t just go away,” he said. “There is a pheromone that is given off when a bee stings, and the more you are stung, the more pheromones are released.”

Bees followed the smell of the pheromones and hung around it. The best way to stave off a bee attack was to go “indoors”, Mr Botha said.

“Close the doors. Open the curtains but not the window, and the bees will naturally go towards the light,” he said. “That’s the best thing to do.”

The bees’ apparent targeted attack on Mr Botha might well have been “coincidental”.

“When bees go into attack mode they will attack anything that crosses their path,” he said. “If you are their point of focus, they will keep stinging.”

However, he said bees were agitated by some smells more than others.

Victims of bee stings should scrape the sting out with something hard, like a credit card, so the venom sac attached to the sting was not ruptured.