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A Parker County man died this week after being stung more than 200 times by what officials say was a colony of crossbred honeybees and Africanized bees.

Mike Kavanaugh, 56, was stung while mowing a pasture with his tractor along White Settlement Road in eastern Parker County, officials said.

"He was covered from head to toe with bees," his daughter, Ashley Kavanaugh, 19, of Azle, said Thursday.

Mike Kavanaugh, a former excavation worker, had been partially paralyzed in a horseback riding accident years ago and had apparently struggled during the attack to return to his wheelchair.

He died at home Monday, a week after the attack and after being hospitalized twice, officials said.

A funeral is scheduled at 10 a.m. today at Laurel Land Funeral Home.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office had not ruled Thursday on an official cause of death.

Lab tests indicate the bees were domestic honeybees that crossbred with Africanized bees, commonly known as killer bees. Two other swarms found nearby were also crossbred colonies, officials said.

Across Texas, Africanized bees have been linked to five deaths, four of which involved the crossbred strains, said Kathleen Phillips, a Texas A&M University spokeswoman. The first death occurred in 1993 and the most recent in May.

Parker County will probably not be included on a state bee quarantine list because no hives of fully Africanized bees were found, Phillips said.

Five North Texas counties -- Tarrant, Dallas, Hood, Ellis and Johnson -- are among the 144 counties statewide that are included in the quarantine, which restricts movement of commercial bees.

On Sept. 16, firefighters responding to a 911 call found Kavanaugh slumped unconscious on his tractor and covered with bees, about 10 feet from his wheelchair, said Brad Cathey, Parker County's emergency management coordinator.

Firefighters donned special gear and used a soapy foam to remove the swarming insects, officials said.

Cathey said the bees had built a hive in the tire of an abandoned truck, which Kavanaugh apparently bumped with his tractor while mowing.

He was taken by helicopter ambulance to Harris Methodist Fort Worth hospital and released Sept. 18. He later returned to the hospital but was released again, then died Monday, officials said.

Two other hives were found about 20 yards away in an abandoned house. The bees were sent to the Texas Honey Bee Identification Lab in College Station for testing, officials said.

Ashley Kavanaugh said her father still rode horses with assistance and enjoyed mowing his 16-acre pasture in eastern Parker County.

"Mowing was about the only thing he could still do, and he loved it," she said.

She said her father had been looking forward to teaching her daughter, Bailey -- a 3-year-old he called Scooter -- to ride horses.

"When we brought him home from the hospital, he said the one thing he really wanted was to live to watch Bailey grow up and teach her to ride," she said.

She said her father had been using parts from the abandoned pickup to restore a 1954 Chevrolet.

Mike Kavanaugh had an old German shepherd he called "Dog" as a constant companion, his daughter said. She said that she and her two children are his only survivors.

Africanized bees have been moving into Texas and the southwestern United States from South America since the 1950s.

The Africanized bees look like domestic honeybees, but are more aggressive in defending their hives. The bees do not roam in swarms looking to attack, but will react defensively when they feel threatened.

Parker County officials are asking residents to be mindful of bee hives, but they stress there is no reason to panic.

"Any wild hives found in the county need to be reported to the office of emergency management or the Parker County office of Texas cooperative extension immediately," Cathey said.

All Africanized bees found in the United States have been in Texas and farther west, Phillips said.

"We've never heard of them east of Texas," she said. "Nevada is the northernmost extension of their range."

Africanized bees were first detected in the United States near Brownsville in October 1990. Since then, the bees have spread through much of the state and into Arizona, California, Nevada and New Mexico.

The bees' movements in the state are monitored by a series of bee traplines that extend across Texas from Louisiana to New Mexico. (Gale M. Bradford, Special to the Star-Telegram. Staff Writers Neil Strassman and Bill Teeter contributed to this report. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9/27/02.)


2 Men Save Victim From Possible Death

SEGUIN, Texas -- A Guadalupe County man is scheduled to be released from a hospital on Thursday after he was stung more than 400 times by what officials suspect were Africanized bees.

A.C. Gembler (pictured, left) was mowing some grass on Tuesday when he accidentally disturbed a huge nest of the so-called "killer bees."

Within minutes, hundreds of bees attacked Gembler, leaving him defenseless and nearly unconscious.

"It was just a horrible feeling," Gembler said from his hospital bed at the Guadalupe Valley Hospital in Seguin. "Because they just covered my face."

Luckily for Gembler, two men who were passing and saw Gembler on the ground and the swarm of bees.

Despite the potential danger awaiting them, the men were able to get the almost-lifeless 300-pound man into the bed of a pickup and drove him to a fire station in McQueeney where an ambulance was waiting to transport Gembler.

"Boy, I tell you, that was a real blessing," Gembler said.

Nurses said that doctors pulled 400 to 500 stingers from Gembler's body. Doctors even pulled two live bees from the victim's ear.

"They even got in my mouth, my nose," Gembler added. "They had to pull some stingers (from) my tongue."

Gembler said he credits the hospital staff, the McQueeney Fire Department and especially the two men for saving his life.

"If they wouldn't have risked their self for me, I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be ready to go home," Gembler said. (KSAT-TV 12, San Antonio, 9/19/02).


Montgomery County was added Tuesday to the state quarantine, restricting the movement of commercial bee operations following the detection of Africanized honey bees.

The addition makes 144 counties in Texas now quarantined for Africanized honey bees, according to Paul Jackson, chief inspector for the Texas Apiary Inspection Service, a unit of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.

A wild colony of bees was taken from a hollow tree at Cedar Break Park near the intersection of Houston and Caroline streets in Montgomery. The bees were killed and a sample sent to the Texas Honey Bee Identification Lab in College Station. Jackson said the bees were found after a worker tending to the park grounds was stung. The worker has recovered.

The quarantine allows beekeepers to move beehives within, but not out of, the zone in an effort to prevent assisting the spread.

Africanized honey bees look just like regular domestic honey bees but are more defensive in protecting their hives, Jackson noted.

State bee inspectors continue to monitor a series of bee traplines that extend across the state from Louisiana to New Mexico. The Africanized bee was first detected in the United States near Brownsville in October 1990. Since then, the bee has spread through much of the state, along a line roughly from Houston to Lubbock to El Paso. Africanized honey bees also have been found in Arizona, California, Nevada and New Mexico. (Kathleen Phillips, Texas A&M Agriculture News, 9/3/02).


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