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 do, 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 Bee stings.
The Fire Department does not remove beehives or spray bees unless a life-threatening emergency exists. Property owners are responsible for their removal. Do not attempt to control the bees yourself. Call a professional. For swarms and hives outside of a building, please contact the Los Angeles County West Vector Control District at (310) 915-7370, Monday through Friday, 8:03am to 4:30pm for assistance or referral. For swarms and hives inside or on a building, contact a licensed structural pest control operator by consulting your local yellow pages or dialing 411. In an emergency, dial 911.
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.
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
- Old tires
- In or around structures
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.
Avoiding an Attack
As a general rule, stay away from all honey bee swarms and colonies. 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.
- If you accidentally encounter bees, do not panic, but remain calm and quietly retreat until the bees are out of sight.
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.
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.
- Call 911 if breathing is difficult, if stung several times or if allergic to bee stings.