Now that Africanized honey bees have been found in Northern California, Thrasher Termite & Pest Control wants to remind you how to protect yourself if you are attacked by a swarm of bees, and why “do-it-yourself” bee removal is a very bad idea.
First, bee hives and bee swarms should not be disturbed by amateurs. Africanized or not, honey bees will attack when they believe their colony is threatened. If you have a bee problem, call a professional. Professional bee wranglers can safely relocate a common (European) honey bee hive or swarm. These precious pollinators ought to be preserved if at all possible. However, Africanized honey bees are always dangerous. Their hives and swarms must be destroyed by trained professionals.
What to do if Attacked by a Swarm of Africanized Honey Bees?
The United States Department of Agriculture provides the following recommendations if you are attacked by a group of honey bees:
1. RUN away quickly. Do not stop to help others. However, small children and the disabled may need some assistance.
2. As you are running, pull your shirt up over your head to protect your face, but make sure it does not slow your progress. This will help keep the bees from targeting the sensitive areas around your head and eyes.
3. Continue to RUN. Do not stop running until you reach shelter, such as a vehicle or building. A few bees may follow you indoors. However, if you run to a well-lit area, the bees will tend to become confused and fly to windows. Do not jump into water! The bees will wait for you to come up for air. If you are trapped for some reason, cover up with blankets, sleeping bags, clothes, or whatever else is immediately available.
4. Do not swat at the bees or flail your arms. Bees are attracted to movement and crushed bees emit a smell that will attract more bees.
5. Once you have reached shelter or have outrun the bees, remove all stingers. When a honey bees stings, it leaves its stinger in the skin. This kills the honey bee so it can’t sting again, but it also means that venom continues to enter into the wound for a short time.
6. Do not pull stingers out with tweezers or your fingers. This will only squeeze more venom into the wound. Instead, scrape the stinger out sideways using your fingernail, the edge of a credit card, a dull knife blade or other straight-edged object.
7. If you see someone being attacked by bees, encourage them to run away or seek shelter. Do not attempt to rescue them yourself. Call 911 to report a serious stinging attack. The emergency response personnel in your area have probably been trained to handle bee attacks.
8. If you have been stung more than 15 times, or are feeling ill, or if you have any reason to believe you may be allergic to bee stings, seek medical attention immediately. The average person can safely tolerate 10 stings per pound of body weight. This means that although 500 stings can kill a child, the average adult could withstand more than 1100 stings.