Bee Careful - Safety around bees is critical!
In many southern and western states, the bees you see around your property are likely to be Aggressive Honey Bees. (Note: the bees were previously known as Africanized Honey Bees, a term that is no longer used). For example, in Arizona, over 98% of the bees are Aggressive Honey Bees.
There are no apparent physical differences between regular and Aggressive Honey Bees. You will not be able to distinguish them until they are mad. The main differences are behavioral. Here are some examples:
Behavior Regular Bees Aggressive Bees
Forage Day only Day, night, rain
Swarm 2-3 times/year 20+ times/year
Defense of Hive 5-10% will defend 50% will defend
Because they work so hard and collect so much food, Aggressive Honey Bees swarm much more frequently. Swarming is when a portion of the hive leaves to form a new colony. This may appear as a ball of bees. The bees are somewhat more docile when the ball is just formed. They get more testy as time passes.
As our Cities grow into previously undisturbed lands, we will see more bees as the bees move into the Cities for food and water. Bees usually build hives in spaces that make it difficult for predators to enter: wall voids, attics, sprinkler valve boxes, etc. If you see numerous bees entering a small hole in your house, block wall, valve box, etc., you may have a hive.
Here are some suggestions for dealing with bees:
When outside, wear light colors such as white or yellow. Dark colors such as brown may cause bees to think you are a mammal (e.g., bear, skunk, etc.) looking for their honey.
Bees collecting nectar from flowers will not bother you unless you disturb them. They are busy working. If the bees are not stinging you, walk away.
If you do happen to get too close to the hive, hold your breath and walk away. The carbon dioxide you exhale enrages the bees and causes the bees to aggressively defend the hive.
If attacked by bees:
Do not swat or kill the bees; this will provoke the rest of the hive to attack.
Bees will initially attack the face and head. Pull your shirt over your face and, watching where you are going, run inside a house or car.
Do not jump in a pool (they may wait for you to come up).
If you are going to work in an area frequented by bees, it is strongly recommended that you use a professional grade bee suit.
Bee suits have three objectives:
1. Prevent bee stings from making contact with the skin. Bee suit should be baggy enough that a sting in the suit will not touch the skin. Most bee suit gloves, being made of leather, are impervious to stings and do not need to be baggy. However, gloves should be baggy at the ends so that they don’t force the sleeves to touch the skin.
2. Prevent bees from entering the suit. Bee suits should be sealed completely to inhibit bees from entering the suit. This includes any openings at ends of the sleeves, pant legs, and collar. Zippers and Velcro seals should be secure and impermeable to insects.
3. Do not present a target for attack. Bees and other stinging insects usually aim for darker areas as opposed to lighter ones. As such, white bee suits present less of a target than colored ones. Bees also tend to aim for the mask more often than any other part of the suit, due to its darker color.
Bee suits are normally used in beekeeping as well as the extermination and hive removal of bees and other stinging insects.
Your bee suit should be loose fitting for 2 reasons:
1. It is usually worn over your clothes
2. Freedom of movement is critical if you need to exit the area.
When working around bees, wear a bee suit. Ensure all others (customers, family, neighbors, pets, etc.) are inside. Be sure to have a clear escape route into the home or car, if necessary.
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