Most people understand that bees play an important role in our world that is crucial to the food supply and overall health of crops.
Sometimes those hardworking bees mean a different kind of business.
Over the last few decades hives of docile honeybees have been infiltrated by an aggressive strain of bees known as ‘Africanized’ bees.
“Eighty percent of the bees in Southern California are Africanized,” bee specialist John Tran explained. “Most wild bees have some Africanization in them.”
Western honeybees are not a danger to people and don’t attack people or animals as a rule. Their counterparts, the Africanized bees are unrelenting in their assault on anyone or anything that disturbs their home.
Recently an elderly couple was attacked by bees and stung at least 180 times between the two of them.
Tran explained that it is important for people to keep an eye out as they wander around their property, as there are signs if a hive is present or if bees are “scouting” the area for a place to call home.
“Typically, there will be five to 50 bees that will be present if they are scouting the area. Usually this happens three hours to five days before they settle in,” Tran explained. “I tell people to look under the eaves, water features or a leaky faucet.”
Tran said due to the dry and hot conditions in areas like the desert, bees tend to be drawn to water sources.
“Bees get thirsty just like the rest of us.”
Experts advise if people find themselves in a swarm of bees to immediately seek cover in a house, garage, car or wherever they can escape and close a door, creating a barrier.
“One sting from an Africanized bee releases pheromones signaling the other bees to continue the attack,” Tran said.
Tran added that because “Africanized” bees tend to nest in ground cavities, unsuspecting people can rouse the bees creating a potentially deadly situation.
“When I was about 11, we were on vacation in Lake Tahoe,” San Diego resident Terry Wright said. ”My friends and I were running and we tripped over a fallen tree trunk that housed a massive swarm of bees.”
Wright went on to say that they were chased down by the bees and that one of his friends was stung over 40 times.
“Those bees were on a mission,” Wright said. ” Thank goodness we made it out alive.”
Experts insist that it is critical to be aware of your surroundings and if bees start swarming, run and find cover.
“Sometimes it is simply a footfall that will set them off,” Tran said.
Stephanie D. Schulte is a writer/photographer with SWRNN. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.