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Africanized bees swarming Globe Miami area
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Africanized bees swarming Globe Miami area

Don’t swat them for any reason

Spring is a special time of year when nature comes alive with beauty and color, but danger awaits the unwary in the form of thousands of tiny bees.

Reports of Africanized bees swarming along the Arizona Eastern railroad and in trees around the Globe Miami area have become more frequent recently, and attacks have been publicized all over the state of Arizona.  

An 11-year-old was stung more than 400 times in Safford last month after shooting an abandoned car with a BB gun. He spent about a week at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and had recovered his health, but his grandmother, Petrea Kunz, said he now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. A horse in Prescott was killed by an attack of Africanized bees last week.

One of the ways to tell if you are getting too close to a hive or swarm is by the behavior of the bees. Bees will begin to “bump” a person as a warning sign that they have wandered too close for comfort of the queen bee. Scientific American, an online information site, gives the following advice for how to avoid an attack.

  • Wear light-colored clothing. Honeybees have evolved to recognize threats from predators like bears, honey badgers and other dark-furred mammals. Also avoid the color red, which appears black to bees.
  • Never approach or disturb a nest. If you notice bees entering or exiting a rock crevice, a hole in the ground or a tree cavity, assume there’s a nest present and leave the area immediately.
  • Pay attention to bee behavior. If bees fly into you or begin to swarm over or around you, they are probably trying to warn you off. Remember: don’t swat at the bees, just leave.

Exterminators can remove hives or deal with swarming bees, so call local exterminators if you suspect you have a problem.

What to do if attacked by Africanized honeybees (Source: United States Department of Agriculture):

  1. Run away quickly. Do not stop to help others. However, small children and the disabled may need some assistance.
  2. As you are running, pull your shirt up over your head to protect your face, but make sure it does not slow your progress. This will help keep the bees from targeting the sensitive areas around your head and eyes.
  3. Do not stop running until you reach shelter, such as a vehicle or building. A few bees may follow you indoors. However, if you run to a well-lit area, the bees will tend to become confused and fly to windows. Do not jump into water. The bees will wait for you to come up for air. If you are trapped for some reason, cover up with blankets, sleeping bags, clothes or whatever else is immediately available.
  4. Do not swat at the bees or flail your arms. Bees are attracted to movement, and crushed bees emit a smell that will attract more bees.
  5. Once you have reached shelter or have outrun the bees, remove all stingers. When a honeybee stings, it leaves its stinger in the skin. This kills the honeybee so it can’t sting again, but it also means that venom continues to enter the wound for a short time.
  6. Do not pull stingers out with tweezers or your fingers. This will only squeeze more venom into the wound. Instead, scrape the stinger out sideways using your fingernail, the edge of a credit card, a dull knife blade or other straight-edged object.
  7. If you see someone being attacked by bees, encourage that person to run away or seek shelter. Do not attempt to rescue the person yourself. Call 9-1-1 to report a serious stinging attack. The emergency response personnel in your area have probably been trained to handle bee attacks.
  8. If you have been stung more than 15 times or are feeling ill, or if you have any reason to believe you may be allergic to bee stings, seek medical attention immediately. The average person can safely tolerate 10 stings per pound of body weight. This means that although 500 stings can kill a child, the average adult could withstand more than 1,100 stings.

About Aimee Staten

Aimee Staten

Aimee Staten has worn several hats over the last few years, but she recently put on one of her more familiar caps after four years of working in nonprofits: That of a journalist. She has 14 years of experience in the news business as a reporter with eight of those years as the managing editor of the Eastern Arizona Courier.

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