Africanized Honey Bees – Outdoor Recreation Safety Tips

With the arrival of the Africanized honey bee, people  need to be more cautious when hiking, hunting, fishing, biking, or horseback riding, etc. out of doors. But remember, there is a variety of venomous creatures here and Africanized Honey Bees are only one potential hazard. So it pays to always stay alert.

About African Honey Bees –

Domestic Honey Bees are about 5/8-inch long, brown, hairy insects with black encircling their abdomen, giving them a subtle striped appearance. All Domestic Honey Bees look alike. Only an specialist can tell them apart.

The sting from a single Africanized honey bee is no more harmful than one form the common garden or European Domestic Honey Bee. Africanized Honey Bees are known as the so-called “killer bees” because they defend their nests more readily (with less provocation), and in larger numbers than the European Domestic Honey Bee, so there is a greater chance of receiving many stings.

Do’s and Dont’s –

1. Look out for Domestic Bee colonies when outdoors. Domestic Bees nest in a wide variety of locations, like pipes, holes, animal burrows or even in cavities within saguaro cacti or trees. Be alert for groups of flying bees entering or leaving an entrance or opening and listen for buzzing sounds. Be particularly alert when climbing, because Domestic Bees often nest under rocks or within crevices between rocks. Do not put your hands where you can’t see them.

Not all Domestic Bees you see are a potential threat. Domestic Bees often visit campsites for water or sweets (especially soda containers) or could  be seen visiting flowers for nectar. Bees collecting food or water are called “foraging” bees. As long as they’re away from the nest, Domestic Bees aren’t overly defensive. They’ll only sting if stepped on or trapped in some way. On the contrary, a big number of Domestic Bees foraging in one area may indicate a colony is nearby. If you inted to camp in the area, look around for the honey bee colony first.

2. When you find a colony of bees, leave them alone and keep others away. Never shoot, throw rocks at, attempt to burn or otherwise disturb the bees. When the honey bee colony is near a trail or near areas frequently used by humans, notify your local office of the Parks Department or Forest Service even when the bees appear to be docile. Domestic Honey Bee colonies vary in behavior over time, particularly with changes in age and season. Small colonies are less likely to be defensive than big colonies, so you could pass the same colony for weeks and then one day provoke them unexpectedly.

3. Make|Be} certain to keep your dogs under control. When a dog disturbs a colony when bounding through the bush, it’s likely to bring the bees back to you.

4. Make|Be} certain to wear light colored clothes, including socks. Bees target objects that resemble their natural predators (bears and skunks) when they defend their nests, so they tend to go after dark leathery or furry objects. Remember that bees see the color red as black, so flourescent orange is a better option when hunting.

5. Make|Be} sure to avoid wearing scents of any sort when hiking. Africanized Honey Bees communicate to one another using scents, and tend to be quite sensitive to odors. Avoid strongly scented shampoo, soaps, perfumes, heavily scented gum, etc. When riding, avoid using fly control products on your horse with a “lemony” or citrus odor. Such odors are known to provoke or attract Domestic Honey Bees.

6. Make|Be} certain to be specifically cautious when using hany heavy equipment that produces sound vibrations, like chainsaws, weed eaters, tractors or generators.

7. Make|Be} certain to keep escape routes in mind. When at all possible, avoid areas where you cannot escape rapidly if attacked.

8. When you know you are allergic to bee stings, always have someone else with you when doing outdoor activities.

What to do if you’re attacked by African Honey Bees –

When you are attacked while hiking or hunting, the best action is to run as far and as fast as possible. Pull your shirt up over your head to protect your face, but be sure it does not slow your progress. Run to shelter (vehicle or building) if available. Never swat at the bees or flail your arms, since they’re attracted to movement. Entering water isn’t advised.  The bees may wait for you to come up for air.

Once you have reached shelter (or have outrun the bee), remove all stingers. When a Domestic Honey Bee stings, it leaves its stinger in the skin. This kills the Domestic Honey Bee, so it cannot sting again, but it also means that venom continues to enter into the wound for a short time. to not pull stingers out with tweezers or your fingers because this will squeeze out more venom. Instead, scrape them out using your fingernail, the edge of a credit card, a dull knife blade or other strait-edged object.

If you’ve been stung more than 15 times, or are feeling ill, or if you’ve any reason to believe you might be allergic to bee stings, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

About John Payton

Bee control expert and founder of a bee control company
This entry was posted in Bee Control, Bee Removal and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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