An elderly lady from Marble Hall in Limpopo who nearly died over the weekend after being attacked by a swarm of more than 300 bees has been discharged from hospital and is recovering at home.
Sunday started the same as always for Martin (74) and Johanna de Beer (73). They went to church in the morning, and had a chat with friends and other members of the congregation afterwards. Then they went home to start Sunday lunch.
But when they arrived back on the farm their day turned into a nightmare when Johanna was attacked by a swarm of bees.
“It was absolutely horrifying. My dad’s allergic to bee stings and he went inside the house immediately. But from there he could see my mom being attacked by the bees. She was simply covered in bees – her arms, legs, face,” says the couple’s son Coen de Beer (47).
Coen works on the nearby citrus farm of his brother Hennie (50).
“My dad called and I rushed over there. It was the most shocking thing I’ve ever experienced. I grabbed my mom and took her to the swimming pool, where I put her in the water,” Coen says.
But the swarm was relentless. “I pushed her underwater hoping the bees would fly off and stop stinging her – but it was hopeless. As soon as she came up for air, they renewed their attack. I’ve never experienced something like that in my life.”
Coen says a swarm of bees had been living in a hollowed-out tree stump near the farmhouse for a while. But the family suspects a second swarm of nomadic bees had passed by, causing the resident bees to become defensive.
The family called emergency services. In the meantime, Coen’s wife, Elma, got some sheets from the house. Coen says he wet the sheets before covering his mom in them. He was also stung at least 50 times.
“They picked my mom up in the medivac and took her to the Netcare Union Hospital in Alberton [east of Johannesburg]. She stopped breathing on the way to the hospital – her body had gone into shock. But emergency personnel were able to revive her. They say she could’ve died. Isn’t that just terrifying?”
Hennie has since organised for a beekeeper to remove the swarm from his parents’ farm. He says the beekeeper told him these bees were uncharacteristically aggressive for their species.
Johanna is “almost her old self” again, Coen says.
“She looks good – except of course for the hundreds of bumps on her body. I’ve just been to see her and she seems upbeat.
“It’s such a shock. You’d never think someone could die [from bee stings] but you don’t realise their heart could stop [from shock]. Thankfully, it wasn’t her time and we’re more grateful than ever that she’s still with us.”