A Guide for Fire Fighters and Rescue Personnel
Africanized Honey Bees (Africanized honey bee) are spreading in Texas. Their attacks can be a life- threatening emergency. Fortunately, rescue personnel can help individuals under attack by using (with slight modification) equipment and materials common on fire trucks, ambulances and dangerous materials response automobiles.
This guide can also be used to protect people from swarms of wasps and Domestic Honey Bees, which to the naked eye are indistinguishable from the Africanized honey bee.
African Honey Bees and Protective Clothing
Conventional heavy turnout gear worn by most fire fighters protects all areas of the body except the head and neck. Consequently, veils are essential, but they ought to be altered to the headgear worn. Bee veils are available from beekeeping supply houses. Mosquito veils can be obtained from military surplus and sporting goods stores. Seal the veil at top and bottom with string or duct tape. Tape should also be used around the waist, wrists and ankles, and to close any other gaps. Leather areas of turnout gear, such as gloves, may antagonize the bees. Plastic or rubber gloves are best.
Disposable dangerous materials suits, like those made of Chemrel R, Saranex R or Tyvek R, provide good protection, in particular when worn over street clothing or uniforms.
Reflective aluminum suits work but may limit movement, and veils and duct tape are needed.
Africanized Honey Bees and Wetting Agents
Bees are easily immobilized and killed by wetting agents (surfactants) – including commercial liquid dishwashing detergent. Nonfoaming fire control chemicals and fire fighting foams with surfactant characteristics like the aqueous film-foams (AFFF) also work.
Not all commercially available products have been tested, but most such wetting agents ought to be equally effective. Chemicals tested so far include – original Palmolive dishwashing liquid, 9-55 R fire control chemical, Silv-ex R foam concentrate and FC-600 Light Water brand ATC/AFFF. All had a light but distinctive odor. A one percent solution was sufficient to immediately immobilize Domestic Bees and apparently kill them within 60 seconds.
When there is doubt whether a particular chemical will work, rescue personnel should enlist the aid of a local beekeeper. Clearly, human and animal safety should be the most important consideration. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has conditionally approved detergents for use against Africanized honey bee s.
Africanized Honey Bees and Victim Rescue
After arriving at a site, rescue personnel first should assess the situation from within their cars. Then they should retreat a few hundred yards, put on protective clothing and move any onlookers to a safe distance.
Each situation is unique, but to rescue a victim, two things must be done as quickly as possible – establish an adequate insect barrier, and neutralize the insects alarm odor – which consists of chemical components of venom that enable more bees to find and attack the victim.
Fire and rescue units replying with standard fire fighting equipment can quickly accomplish both objectives by using water plus a non-toxic wetting agent.
Using standard fire fighting procedures, set up a line with an educator capable of delivering a one to three% spray of among the foaming/wetting agents and a nozzle capable of delivering a wide fan patter. A light initial application to the victim will stop the attack by most of the insects on or near the victim within 60 seconds. These insects, unable to fly, will start to suffocate and could be rapidly brushed aside.
If an obvious line of insect flight can be determined, a vertical wall of spray 20 to 30 feet in the air should intercept further flight activity. Or, the nozzle can be inverted near the victim to provide a curtain of safety.
Rescuers wearing proper protective gear then can carry a victim into a house, van or ambulance for treatment and transport. Many bees, nevertheless, will follow to continue their attack.
In a house, vacuum up bees attracted to windows by light. In a rescue automobile, drive away and then roll down the windows and chase the insects out.
African Honey Bees and Stinger Removal
Once the victim is protected, remove stings as rapidly as possible. Otherwise, the white, translucent, venom sac – with its nerves and muscles attached – will continue to pump venom into the wound for a minute or more. Removing the victim s outer layer of garments may help because stings embedded through the fabric will be dislodged in the process.
The best way to remove stings is to simply scrape them away with a fingernail, credit card or similar instrument. Do not ever pinch, tweeze or otherwise attempt to pull stings out, as this will simply inject the remaining contents of the venom sacs.
After sting victims have been cared for, rescuers should launder the bees alarm-odor chemical from suits, veils and equipment.
African Honey Bees and Training
Fire and rescue personnel should familiarize themselves with normal activities of stinging social insects in their area. Local bee professionals or beekeepers can provide extremely valuable advice and assistance, in particular when unusual situations arise. All states have active beekeeper organizations, as do many local communities, and they normally welcome requests for assistance.
Most beekeeper groups would welcome an invitation to help create training exercises, where bees would be used to simulate an actual attack and allow rescuers an a opportunity to practice their skills.