First published in the American Singers Club newsletter, October 1998.
The arrival of killer bees in southern Arizona has certainly made news. Accounts of bees attacking, or killing dogs, horses, humans etc. become quite common. The ferocity and tenacity of these bees is amazing, they have been known to chase a running victim as far as several blocks. A recent story tells of a Black Labrador dog peacefully chained in his own back yard. Thousands of bees descended on him, apparently believing he was part of some threat that had disturbed them. Unable to escape, he had no chance of survival. The news report stated he had over three thousand stings, including stings on his eyes and inside his mouth.
Should we a bird owners be concerned? Does this possibly affect us? Many of us have outdoor aviaries. Certainly the birds would be unable to escape a similar vicious attack. You have not given that possibility any thought? Neither have I - but, let me tell you what happened recently.
A fervent believer in fresh air, sunshine and exercise, my birds are in outdoor aviaries year round, heat or cold. The quality of my canaries is well known and I credit those factors for the health, stamina, and the resulting enthusiastic singing style of my American Singer canaries.
Coyotes, Bobcats, Raccoons, house cats, feral dogs, pack rats, ground squirrels, Norway rats, Roadrunners, hawks, etc. all sorts of predators from the open desert behind my place have tried, over the year, to get into my aviaries. Only the rattlesnakes have had meager success, but it never occurred to me to consider bees a threat.
Recently, just after I finished feeding the aviary birds, a neighbor pursued by bees raced into my screened patio bird area. About a dozen got in with him which we dispatched quickly with a fly swatter. He did get a few stings and more bees were gathering at the screen door wanting to get in at him. Suddenly a coyote, besieged by a huge billowing swarm of furious bees, raced through my yard, right past the circular aviary that housed my American Singer canaries.
Instantly, the best word that seems to fit the situation, instantly the aviary was engulfed by bees. The black cloud pursuing the coyote did not seem to diminish, yet the aviary had suddenly seemed to disappear in the dark cloud of bees, with a hellish ominous buzzing sound undulating in intensity.
We watched in stunned disbelief, in shock, as the canaries slammed into cage wire in a frenzied attempt to escape, only to drop under a mass of bees.
How long it lasted I do not know, it seemed like hours. Shock, grief, helplessness, anger caused mental overload as emotion flooded my system.
It was some time before it was safe to venture out and view the damage. Nothing survived. Later, after the hive was located and the bees exterminated, it was estimated that between sixty to eighty thousand bees were involved.
Gone were some of my finest American Singer breeding stock. Birds bred from birds purchased from one of the best known and successful American singer show breeders in America. My years of careful breeding and selection of show quality song wiped out in minutes.
It hurts to think about it. It hurts to write about it. Just a blob of feathers left, no life, no song, part of me died with them. So what now? How does one replace such quality? The cost? The breeding years lost? The show hopes gone?
With reluctance, with heavy heart, I tell you of this, to warn those of you with outdoor aviaries about the threat you probably have not seriously considered. This has cost me dearly, but you - you do have the time to prevent such heartache and loss.
USE WINDOW SCREENING ON YOUR AVIARIES.
Nah! Couldn't happen to you.
Copyright © 1998 Emil Musil. All rights reserved.
Return to the ASC Articles Index