Bee warnings: New signs alert hikers on Camelback Mtn. to potential danger

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- New signs on Camelback Mountain's hiking trails warn hikers that there are bee hives in the area.

There have been two bee attacks this week alone. One of them was fatal.

A trio of hikers was attacked by bees while climbing off the trail at Echo Canyon. Joshua Ruzsa fell about 60 feet to his death while trying to fend off the swarm. The other hikers hunkered down in a crevice until helped arrived. Clad in white bee suit, firefighters were able to make their way through the bee swarm and air-lift the pair off the mountain.

"They had nowhere to go while being attacked," said Jim Lineham , a pilot with Phoenix Police Department. He's the one who flew the hikers down.

"I had to wipe my face clear so I could see them," said Todd Lentz of the Phoenix Fire Department. "It was a nonstop attack."

Paramedics said the young men had been stung about 300 times each. Rescuers said they're lucky to be alive.

Bees inhabit all the mountains around the Phoenix area, and their behavior can be unpredictable so it's important not to overreact, Lentz said.

"Don't fight them, don't swat at them, don't kill them, just lay down," he said. "Up on the mountain, you're at the mercy of nature."

Phoenix officials say incidents like Monday's bee attack are just one of the many reasons they encourage hikers to stay on the marked trails.

Another bee attack happened Wednesday in Maricopa. A DIRECTV worker came upon some bees while on a house call. He reportedly tried to spray them, which just made his situation worse.

The worker was stung about 100 times. Two people who tried to help him were stung several times, as well. The worker was taken to a local hospital, but his condition was not immediately available.

According to the Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center, about 387 cases of bee stings have been reported in Maricopa County this year.

Dr. Michel Levine, a medical toxicologist with the center, says you can't outrun bees.

"The killer bees have been known to chase victims over large distances, and can fly relatively fast," he wrote on the Banner Health website. " If you are attacked by killer bees, the most important thing to do is protect your face and run indoors or get into a vehicle. Certainly, the bees that are on a person will stay on the person once they enter a house, but the swarm will not typically follow someone indoors."

Levine said unless you are allergic, it takes a lot of stings to make you sick. If you are allergic to bee stings, Levine suggests you carry and EpiPen with you, especially when you're outdoors.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the hikers attacked by bees on Monday were not on a marked trail. Rather, they were climbing some distance from the trail.