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We were attacked by Giant Honey Bees (Apis dorsata).

A friend and I were ensuring the safety of others and got away with 30 odd stings.

We had proper hiking attire, and buffs to cover our faces. Few of us had sunglasses. Almost all of us had a cap or a hat.

Following was the exact thing we did once we were under attack:

  • When we were attacked, I asked the group to sit down with head dug between thighs, avoid any kind of movement.
  • Half of the group was with me, while others were waiting some place away and safe. I asked them to sit together and immediately put blanket on them to keep the bees from biting them, during the process I had to move, so I got multiple stings.
  • We had to remain that way for a couple of hours, later when we observed that the noise of bees had gone low, we thought we could move. I descended with the group, while I knew I had to return to assist the remaining half of the group.
  • I guided the first bunch of folks to a safer level where there were no bees, when I started ascending towards the other group I knew I was going to be attacked. Repeating the same, I again got stung like 20 times or so.

Note: That was the only possible way down the mountain, and with almost scramble-like a place with a 50+ m exposure, running wasn't an option. We moved as fast we could.

Was that the right approach? How to react to one such Honey bee attack?

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    I have always retreated rapidly (run away) when encountering bees or wasps. I have never heard of or considered sitting down, I will be interested to see answers to this question. – James Jenkins Dec 28 '16 at 13:03
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    These are huge bees. Apis dorsata has been described as one of the most dangerous animals of the southeastern Asian jungles due to their threatening defensive behaviors. It is considered the most defensive of all of the honey bees, even more defensive than the African honey bee (Ellis and Ellis 2009; Hall et al. 1995). Their main weapons are stingers that are up to 3 mm long and easily penetrate clothing and even the fur of a bear. – Ken Graham Dec 28 '16 at 13:05
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    @JamesJenkins: I too wondered if that was an option, but in this case it wasn't. I'll see if I can share a picture of the place, it was near a very narrow traverse with a thousand feet exposure on one side and a rock wall on the other with a bee hive like 400 ft above us in one of the roof-like structure on the rock face. There was no way we could have run. – WedaPashi Dec 28 '16 at 13:26
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    @WedaPashi That is a lot of detail that should have been in the question. So you cannot outrun 1. What you want is when 1 goes back for 10,000 friends you are not in the same place. – paparazzo Dec 28 '16 at 13:45
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    You remained under light cover for multiple hours with multiple bees in the vicinity? I can't help but think there must have been a better way to deal with that. Even running away seems like a better option. You don't need to outrun them, you need to get away from what they feel they should protect. – Mast Dec 29 '16 at 4:51
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Generally speaking bees only attack when they feel threatened or protecting their hives.

Apis dorsata has been described as one of the most dangerous animals of the southeastern Asian jungles due to their threatening defensive behaviors. It is considered the most defensive of all of the honey bees, even more defensive than the African honey bee (Ellis and Ellis 2009; Hall et al. 1995). Their main weapons are stingers that are up to 3 mm long and easily penetrate clothing and even the fur of a bear. Attached to the stingers are large venom glands with accompanying muscles that pump the venom into the skin, thus delivering a painful sting. Large numbers of Apis dorsata attack a perceived threat, though only a few provide the painful stings because the bees will die shortly after stinging. The other bees will buzz loudly and bite the threat to deter the threat, without risking the life of many individuals.

The best possible thing to do is to flee the area as safely and quickly as possible until you either reach some sort of shelter (car) or gained enough distance from the place of the attack that the bees are no longer a threat.

The USDA has some general guidelines as what to do when attacked with Africanized Honey Bees and this what I believe should be employed when dealing with Apis dorsata.

  1. RUN away quickly. Do not stop to help others. However, small children and the disabled may need some assistance.

  2. As you are running, pull your shirt up over your head to protect your face, but make sure it does not slow your progress. This will help keep the bees from targeting the sensitive areas around your head and eyes.

  3. Continue to RUN. Do not stop running until you reach shelter, such as a vehicle or building. A few bees may follow you indoors. However, if you run to a well-lit area, the bees will tend to become confused and fly to windows. Do not jump into water! The bees will wait for you to come up for air. If you are trapped for some reason, cover up with blankets, sleeping bags, clothes, or whatever else is immediately available.

  4. Do not swat at the bees or flail your arms. Bees are attracted to movement and crushed bees emit a smell that will attract more bees.

  5. Once you have reached shelter or have outrun the bees, remove all stingers. When a honey bees stings, it leaves its stinger in the skin. This kills the honey bee so it can't sting again, but it also means that venom continues to enter into the wound for a short time.

  6. Do not pull stingers out with tweezers or your fingers. This will only squeeze more venom into the wound. Instead, scrape the stinger out sideways using your fingernail, the edge of a credit card, a dull knife blade or other straight-edged object.

  7. If you see someone being attacked by bees, encourage them to run away or seek shelter. Do not attempt to rescue them yourself. Call 911 to report a serious stinging attack. The emergency response personnel in your area have probably been trained to handle bee attacks.

  8. If you have been stung more than 15 times, or are feeling ill, or if you have any reason to believe you may be allergic to bee stings, seek medical attention immediately. The average person can safely tolerate 10 stings per pound of body weight. This means that although 500 stings can kill a child, the average adult could withstand more than 1100 stings. - USDA

Be prudent when coming to the aid of someone who is the victim of bee attacks:

(Apis dorsata) attacks are also escalated by pheromones. When a bee stings, it not only injects toxins into the victim, it also releases alarm pheromones. When these chemical signals are given off near a hive or swarm, they can trigger other bees to come to their colony mate's defense, often attacking until the victim flees or is killed.

When one person comes to another victim's aid, the bees will sometimes turn on the newcomer, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In this way, bee attacks can escalate and spread.

According to Thomas Seeley, an apiologist at Cornell University who studies swarm intelligence, the species involved in the attack was most likely the giant honey bee, Apis dorsata, which is common in Thailand. "It has been described as the most ferocious stinging insect on earth, but it attacks only when disturbed. In Thailand, I've seen these bees fly down and attack boys who had thrown rocks at their nests. Perhaps something like this provoked the bees to attack," Seeley told Life's Little Mysteries. - Giant Bee Swarm Attacks Dozens of Buddhist Monks

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    "As you are running, pull your shirt up over your head to protect your face". This sounds like a great way to run into a tree. – Henry A. Dec 28 '16 at 18:49
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    The advice to "scrape the stinger off with a credit card/fingernail/etc." is outdated; the pump parts of a stinger are complicated enough that squeezing them doesn't force out more venom. The most important part is to remove the stinger quickly, because it will still pump venom for a short while. beeculture.com/bee-venom-chemistry-ouch – PotatoEngineer Dec 28 '16 at 19:41
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    flea the area amusing typo – MikeTheLiar Dec 28 '16 at 21:34
  • @PaulMarshall: That is not true in all cases. I once personally tried to pull out a stinger on my hand and (by accident) squeezed empty the entire poison sac... My hand looked like a blown up rubber glove for two days after that. (I'm not allergic and have been stung plenty of times where this didn't happen.) – fgysin Jan 19 '17 at 12:17

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