Landscape Worker Dies From Bee Attack While Hanging From Tree: ‘It Was Horrible’

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – A landscape lighting technician died Thursday after being invaded by bees at a Texas home, according to a family spokesperson.

Franco Galvan Martinez, 53, was suspended by a harness in one of the trees in the house when he inadvertently disturbed a beehive and bees swarmed in, a family spokesman said.

“I guess in [a] panicked trying to get the bees away from himself, he kicked the ladder,” said Joe Maldonado, a family friend and pastor.

Galvan Martinez remained suspended in the air by the harness as the bugs attacked.

“The hive was so gigantic that it literally covered Franco instantly,” Maldonado told KXAN.

Franco Galvan Martinez, 53 (Photo: family document)

A neighbor who did not wish to be identified said he heard calls for help from Galvan Martinez, adding that he appeared to be covered in thousands of bees.

Two of his colleagues below tried to help but were also stung, they said.

“They were very distraught,” the neighbor told KXAN. “It was horrible.”

“For more than 10 minutes, all they could do was endure the audition [Galvan Martinez’s] angst,” Maldonado said.

Austin-Travis County EMS said first responders were dispatched to a home around 5 p.m. Firefighters used their hose to blow up the bees and reach the man, witnesses said.

Meadowbrook Drive in West Austin (Photo KXAN)

Maldonado said Galvan Martinez, a married father of two with grandchildren, lives in Seguin.

“He was a very happy man,” said Maldonado, who confirmed an autopsy of Galvan Martinez was scheduled.

The family said Galvan Martinez worked for Bill Biggadike & Associates, a New Braunfels-based landscape and lighting company. The company confirmed the death of one of its employees on Friday, but had no immediate comment.

A neighbor said KXAN residents had known about a beehive in the tree for some time but had never encountered any problems.

The Austin Code Department said the matter was assigned to an inspector following a call Friday. A neighbor said an inspector visited the house and took pictures that afternoon. The department said there were no prior code complaints to the address.

The home owner declined to comment when KXAN visited on Friday evening.

Austin Code said a city ordinance regulates the maintenance and management of bee colonies within city limits. However, the ordinance does not apply to feral colonies in hollows or tree stumps. Additionally, the city does not provide services for the removal, relocation, or eradication of bees due to state regulations.

Professional beehive remover Mike Lopez said anyone who encounters beehives on their property should leave them alone and call a professional. In the event of an attack, Lopez said the best advice is to keep moving and seek shelter indoors or in a vehicle.

“Under no circumstances do you stop moving,” Lopez said, adding that bees are attracted to the carbon dioxide emitted when humans exhale, which makes a person’s mouth and nose especially vulnerable.

Lopez said bees also release alarm pheromones after stinging a person or animal, signaling other bees to join in the attack.

“Once you have one, you’ll have two, then you’ll have 16,” he said. “And it will continue until you have thousands on you.”

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