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I can’t possibly make this up…

Me fighting off the bees, fire extinguisher in hand...

Me fighting off the bees, fire extinguisher in hand...

Last trip in San Blas, things had been going just fine. It was the second day of a three day trip. We had a cool group of people aboard. The weather was getting better after a hazy first day, and a rather stormy night. We were on our way to Kuanidup, one of our favorite anchoring spots. It was going to be a nice afternoon. At least that was the plan.

We dropped the hook in our usual spot between Kuanidup Grande and Pequeno. We noticed that there was some kind of corporate “Survivor” type event going on at the resort on the island. There were all kinds of people, and there was apparently some kind of cayuco race involved. We then knew it was a race when the “red” team somehow decided to row themselves right into Andiamo. Morons.

A few hours later, after getting settled in, I was below catching up on some boat stuff, when one of the guests came below dripping wet from the cockpit. I politely asked him to dry off before coming below, when he mentioned something about a lot of bees being outside. I looked at him rather perplexed. “Bees?” He had to be wrong. I’d been in and out of San Blas over the past two years, and don’t think I’d even seen a bee on any of the islands.

I stuck my head out of the companionway, and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There was a flurry of commotion all over the stern section of the boat. THOUSANDS of bees were buzzing around, rather frantically. The wind generator was spinning, and the bees seemed drawn to it. Even though dozens of bees were getting chopped up by the blades every minute or so, they kept coming. I stuck my head out to look over the bimini, and the aft section of the bimini top was COVERED with bees! Both alive, and dead from getting chopped up by the generator. The area behind Andiamo had literally THOUSANDS of airborne bees practically attacking it. Beyond belief.

I called down and asked Karen for my trusty can of Plagatox. The spray can had a straw extension on it, and I was able to shoot clouds of insecticide at the heavy concentrations of bees. With every puff of spray, a good 60 or 70 bees were felled.

About this same time, two of the guests, Sander and Maria, a Dutch couple, were coming back to the boat from snorkeling. They didn’t see the commotion yet, and by the time they were close to the swim ladder, both of them got attacked by the bees. I told them to swim away from the boat and stay in the water as much as possible while we figured out what to do next.

I kept trying to keep them off the boat, and managed to get a good spraying on the bimini top, leaving several hundred bees dead. I noticed that on their final death knells, they were stinging the bimini en masse. It was really freaky watching all this.

I needed to use something else, the insecticide was running out, and I was going to have to think of something. I then remembered the fire extinguishers. I had at least three onboard. So I grabbed one and started firing it at the bulk of the swarm. It seemed to work, The snow from the extinguisher seemed to kill the bees on contact and disperse the surrounding bees. Ok, I’ll keep swamping them with the fire extinguisher.

Between the first and second fire extinguisher, I noticed the bees really started coming right for me. Several hit me on the head trying to get their stingers in, luckily they couldn’t penetrate my rather thick and abnormally long hair that was long overdue for a cut. I’m actually glad I delayed cutting it! At least 10 bees bounced off my head without being able to get a stinger in. Finally, one got me on my forearm. I managed to pluck out the stinger before it could stay in too long.

The battle continues. I’ve used up two fire extinguishers. I had one go limp on me, because it had run out of pressure. Damn. I remembered I had one last one all the way in the forward cabin and went for it. After a few minutes of fiddling with it, I got it to work. This one gave the most gas, and dispersed the bees for what I thought was the last time. Wrong. Less then 2 minutes later, the surviving ones were back, and they were PISSED.

I make the call that we have to get out of the anchorage. I told Sander and Maria to swim to the island while we tried to lose the bees. I start the engine, pull up the anchor, and try to motor out while slapping bees away from me with a towel. It was crazy. A few minutes later Andiamo is away from Kuanidup, and I’m steering in erratic circles trying to get the bees away from the boat. The further we get away, the more the numbers dwindle. Eventually, we’re down to just a few live bees and a lot of dead ones. Hundreds if not thousands. One of the guests accidentally steps on a dying bee and gets stung on his foot. We proceed to scoop up buckets of sea water to rinse the bee carnage off the boat. Things seem to be slowly coming to normal.

About that time, Matthias, another guest, looks up at the backstay and sees a whole population of bees hanging on the backstay. That must be where the queen is, and they must be protecting the queen, at least that’s the theory. I get the Plagatox, and climb up the steel frame of the bimini. I’m not even sure if it will hold me. It does, I make it to the boom, and somehow manage to spray the most concentrated area of bees that are up on the backstay, a good 3-4 feet above my head and arm reach. Another few dozen bees fall dead, and the rest take to the air, it looks like it’s over.

Though we have a few straggling bees milling around, we head back to Kuanidup. At the very least, we have to pick up the two guests that are on the beach. We get close, and signal to them to swim over. I ponder whether we should drop the hook again or just head over to the East Lemon Cays, which are about 3 miles to the north.

In a couple minutes, the decision is made for me. A second wave of the swarm is reorganizing back behind Andiamo and coming at us. The sky is getting hazy and black-speckled again. After a quick-mannered action to get the guests back aboard, we head out of the reef and off to the East Lemons. By the time we’re a good half mile away from the islands, the bees numbers start to dwindle. Eventually there are only a handful of live ones left. I smack most of them dead or away with a towel, and the final remaining ones shoo off. The ordeal is over.

We made it to the Lemons, dropped the hook and spent the rest of the afternoon wondering, What the hell was THAT all about? Maybe the same buffoons who rowed into Andiamo, inadvertently knocked over a beehive nestled high up one of the coconut trees. That seems to be the prevailing, if not uneducated, theory.

But I’ll tell you one thing, they were pissed off about something.


  1. Ian says:

    Tony,that is a funny story man!!!!hahhaha,laughing my ass off half way round the world!!!
    take care!:)

  2. Bart Whitehouse says:

    My theory is that a drug running boat had to toss a couple of kis overboard, one washed up on an island and the natives decided to burn it to destroy it but the fumes blew straight into a nearby hive and you got attacked by a swarm of crackhead bees jotlted out of their mind on primo Colombian freebase.

    I kept waiting for the part about how Andiamo then caught on fire and all of the fire extinguishers were cashed from fighting the killer drug fiend bees.

    But my mind’s just weird like that.

  3. Jay Keegan says:

    THAT is a crazy story. They were definitely attracted to something on-board. Maybe a smell, fruit or flowery. Did you go ashore to get your extinguishers re-filled?

  4. Michelle Solomon says:

    Had the same thing happen a couple years back headin’ into West End on Roatan…sounds like you had thousands more, but the hundreds that appeared came with from the sea. CBees give me the Ebee Gbees.

  5. Griet says:

    Hey Tony

    funny you put this on the website 🙂 I was there and tony is not kidding at all. It was crazy. Davids hand is back to normal again now and today we arrived in Belgium again.
    btw: thanks for the nice boat trip.we really enjoyed it and also in Panama city , we followed your recommendation on cafe pommodoro.. delicious..
    Greetings Griet and David

  6. Elizabeth says:

    You do know that the bee poppulation is dwindling rapidly, Tony? You have no participated in lowering their numbers further. LOL.

  7. db! says:

    hey…just heard of a similar story in Central America…met a couple in Nic sailing a catamaran for 2 years came upon killer bees in Costa Rica…here is their story!