Most times, when people are asked to talk about the most dangerous and worst biting pests, the usual suspects topping the list include; rattlesnakes, scorpions and even fire ants. However, the problem is that people fail to realize that the now infamous killer bee is also a very big problem.
Can bees kill humans? The answer to this question is yes but the reason for this answer is not actually as far-fetched as you would think. Bee attacks happen mostly in the bee season which is usually from March to October when the warmer temperatures allow bees to be more active. If you ever encounter a swarm of bees, this article will have prepared you with detailed solutions on how you can handle them if it ever happens.
The common name for referring to the Africanized honey bee is Killer bee. They are the aggressive hybrid of an African honey bee that has been bred with a Brazilian honey bee. If you ever encounter a swarm of these bees, or you get stung by one, the most important thing to do is keep calm.
It could be you or someone you know that gets stung by these bees. In such a situation, it is likely that the person would experience difficulties in swallowing or experience shortness of breath. In either case, you should seek medical attention immediately or call 911.
Usually, people believe killer bees constitute a nuisance, and that is because they usually launch an attack on anyone or any animal that wanders intentionally or unintentionally into their territory. This variety of bee is known to be very aggressive and for good reason. They do not have to be provoked or disturbed before they attack. Even at the slightest sound, noise or vibration, they would launch an attack. These bees can also chase someone for about a quarter mile or more before relenting.
Venom In Bees
The Africanized honey bee is not more potent than the regular variety honey bee, and they also look alike. It has been discovered that any unsensitised human can typically withstand 22 stings per KG of body weight, this means that an average adult can withstand 1000 stings, and 500 stings is enough to kill a child.
Characteristics of a Killer Bee
Killer bees got that name because:
- They are the most aggressive bees
- They are easily provoked
- They always attack in great numbers
- They are very quick to swarm over any prey which stumbles into their territory.
As stated previously, they can also pursue their victims for longer distances. They always have larger colonies, and their colony can remain agitated for longer than other species when they sense danger. These bees are not really selective about where they set up their hive location so are known to be in urban locations and the clash of bee and human creates a problem.
What to do When You Get Stung
Whenever you get stung, or someone you know gets stung, there are things which you should do. If the person is experiencing shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, fainting, slow or rapid heart rate or pulse or the person is turning pale, you need to call 911 or seek immediate medical attention if that is possible.
If there is someone that gets 30 or more bee stings, that person should also seek immediate medical attention without delay. The initial first aid treatment in such a case is to scrape the stingers off with something flat like credit card when you get to an indoor safe location. Then you can wash the sting site with soapy water, then apply a topical cream or wrap ice in a piece of cloth to soothe the pain.
Never kill a killer bee
This point can never be stressed enough. You should not kill these bees, even though they are really aggressive, you should not kill them. You should try your best not to kill these bees because they are very important and productive in the environment. They are plant pollinators, and this is why bee fumigation and insecticides are usually discouraged where ever possible.
Whenever you notice a colony or hive in a location occupied by people, you should call a bee specialist to help you assess and handle the relocation of the colony. Special attention should be paid when bees are found coming in and out of walls, enclosed places or utility boxes.
Never try to remove or relocate a beehive without professional help. You can contact beekeepers, bee removal services, bee supplies or pest control services if you discover beehives on public property or in a park. They can take the appropriate action without harming the bees or the people in that environment.
Where Bees Live
Canals, drainage ditches and retention basins are the most likely places were killer bees can set up their hives because they like to be near water. The queen bee of the Africanized species can lay up to 1,500 eggs a day and sometimes when they feel rain is about to fall, the hive may swarm.
Usually, the most aggressive of these bees are those that have been able to successfully survive the drought period. The period when bee attacks are usually at its peak would be summer, and this is because there is a warmer temperature, less honey and this is when the bees become more protective of their hive and their queen.
Ways of Avoiding a Swarm
To avoid a swarm, there are several things which you can do, and they are all be listed here:
- Regularly check the perimeter of your house for bee colonies.
- Check your storage sheds, meter boxes, dog houses, flower pots, trees, shrubs, piles of wood, debris and crevices.
- You should also be careful when cleaning up debris, or any item which has been lying around outside the house.
- Seal crevices and cavities that might make a good hive location entry point.
- Install a cover over your chimney when it is not in use.
- Keep pets and children inside the house when making use of lawn mowers, blowers, clippers or any equipment which cause vibration or makes noise and they can disturb a beehive.
- Do not allow pets or animals near beehives.
- Always wear light colored clothes around your house, when hiking or whenever you are visiting unknown areas.
- Never use floral or citrus perfumes or aftershave when you are hiking or doing your yard work because they have Ben known to attract bees.
What to do during a Bee Attack?
You always need to have an escape strategy, just in case you get attacked by bees. You should never try to play dead or try swatting the bees away. Once you notice a swarm coming towards you, you need to get some cover as soon as possible. It could be running into your house, car tent, or some other form of enclosure. Ensure you close all doors and windows.
The major thing you need to do if you cannot get cover immediately is keep running in a straight line as fast as you can. Bees are known to be slow fliers, and most healthy people would out run bees. At least, you should be ready to run the length of two football fields.
“Two football fields! I can’t run that far!”
Said every person before they were chased by a swarm of killer bees.
Never jump into a pool or try going underwater. The bees would wait for you until your head surfaces in the air and that is when they would attack your face and neck.
You should always protect your face to prevent stings from the eyes, nose, and in the mouth. Bees usually attack in areas where carbon dioxide is expelled. It should be noted that facial stings are usually the most deadly, even more than bodily stings. You should pull your shirt over your head if there are no other means of protection available.
History of the killer bee
Some years back, African bees were taken to Brazil so that the scientists there could try developing a honey bee which is better adapted to the tropical areas. When this was ongoing, some of the bees escaped and they then started breeding with the local Brazilian honey bees available. After the escape, these bees and their offspring the, Africanized honey bees, have been easily multiplying and migrating to different regions.
The first swarm of Africanized bees was first found in Hidalgo, Texas. They were later found in Arizona and New Mexico. It eventually got to California and Nevada. Africanized honey bees can now be found in most parts of mid and southern Texas, about one-third of New Mexico, all over Arizona, the southern half of New Mexico, and the southern part of California. Since then, killer bees have been migrating and multiplying northward and have reached more than half of Southern U.S. up to the Chesapeake Bay area.
How to Treat Stings from Africanized Honey Bees
Different encounters have occurred with the killer honey bees in Arizona. A single or few bees should not get anyone concerned, unless there is someone who is allergic to bees and their stings. Unfortunately, a lot of people have stories of them and their pets getting stung by hundreds and even thousands (in some cases) of bees are becoming really frequent. The only explanation to that is that they came in contact with bees, and they must have irritated them for them to attack.
This is usually the trigger that provokes bees to attack. It is quite possible that landscapers would disturb a beehive or people might not be aware that they have bees in their residence and they are staying in the attic or a particular place in the house where they hardly use.
Cases of Bees Killing Human
There was a particular report of a landscaper that died and another that was in a very critical condition after there was a bee attack on them. The hive was in the attic, and they were disturbed by the noise which came from the landscapers. It was described by an eye witness as being about as large as a golf cart filled with at least 800,000 bees. But, I imagine that figure is like that friend of a friend that caught a 6ft carp one time.
Many adults are hospitalized after a bee attack and most of them usually survive the attack. Conventional wisdom says that about eight stings per pound of body weight would result in death to humans. Lots of people have survived more than that, and there are also people that have been critically injured and still remains so till now with fewer stings. That number is just a generality.
Dogs, on the other hand, are not so lucky on the survival stakes. If you are concerned about your dog please read our related article, Can bees hurt dogs?, on this very subject.