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Africanized Honey Bees

Don't get stung by Mother Nature!
In addition to the earthquakes, fires and winter storms that have occurred in Southern California during the past decade, Mother Nature has introduced a new threat - Africanized Honey Bees.

The bees first appeared in the United States in Texas in 1990. Since then, they have migrated to other southwestern states. Their presence in California was first confirmed in October 1994.

As of late November 2000, Africanized Honey bees have colonized a 48,900-square mile area of Southern California. The colonized area includes all or parts of Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties.

Because Africanized Honey Bees attack in larger swarms than their European cousins, multiple bee stings are the rule, rather than the exception.

The following recommendations and information can help reduce risk of death and injury from Africanized Honey Bees stings.

Fact vs. Fiction
In many ways, Africanized Honey bees and European Honey Bees are similar. Both:

  • Have the same appearance.
  • Sting only once.
  • Have the same venom.

Africanized Honey Bees also have their own characteristics. They:
  • Are more aggressive.
  • Guard a larger area around their hives.
  • Become upset more easily by humans, machinery and loud noises.
  • Respond faster and in larger swarms.
  • Chase threatening humans and animals for as much as a quarter mile.

Nest Sites
Africanized Honey Bees are not choosy about where they settle. Likely nesting sites include:

  • Abandoned or rarely used vehicles.
  • Empty containers.
  • Places and objects with holes.
  • Fences.
  • Old tires.
  • Trees.
  • In or around structures.
  • Garages.
  • Outbuildings
  • Sheds.

Creating a Safer Environment
To make the environment safer and reduce the risk of a sting:
  • Teach children to use caution and respect all bees.
  • Teach children to notify a teacher or adult if they find a nest or swarm.
  • Eliminate all potential nesting sites.
  • Check walls and eaves of all structures.
  • Close off wall, chimney and plumbing-related gaps that are more than 1/8-inch large.
  • Cover rain spouts, vents, etc. with 1/8" hardware cloth.
  • Watch for regular entrance and exit routes used by swarms during spring, summer, and fall.
  • Meet with neighbors to discuss the threat by Africanized Honey Bees and to increase community preparedness.
  • Put together safety plans for the home and place of work.

Avoiding and Attack
Reduce chances of being stung by taking precautions:

  • Check work areas, yards, pens and other buildings before using power equipment.
  • Call a pest control company or emergency response agency to handle nests and swarms.
  • Remain alert for bees while participating in outdoor sports, games and other activities.

Reacting to an Attack
If a swarm of bees attacks:

  • Run away in a straight line for at least one-half mile if shelter is unavailable. Cover the face and eyes with a jacket and hide in a car or a house if a bee or swarm begins to chase.
  • Find a safe area as soon as possible.
  • Do not jump into water.

Treating Stings
If a bee or bees sting:

  • Remove the stinger quickly, scrape it out with a fingernail, knife blade or credit card; do not release more venom by squeezing the stinger.
  • Wash the affected area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold pack to relieve pain.
  • See a doctor if breathing is difficult, if stung several times or if allergic to bee stings.

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