By Nancy Ham, Master Gardener and Advanced Bee Keeper
How can a homeowner protect themselves and family?
Most people have seen the re-enactments on TV of a tethered animal attacked by a swarm of bees. They may have heard the stories on the news or read them in newspapers of tree trimmers attacked. Inevitably, within a day, an “expert” is quoted by the news source proclaiming the bees are Africanized. This of course serves to scare the listener or reader into believing they are in eminent danger while outside. Add to that is the “Killer Bee” description coined by the media. As reported in previous posts, the human eye cannot detect the difference between the Africanized Honey Bee (AHB) and the European Honey Bee (EHB). The “expert” who usually remains anonymous is basing their opinion on the bees’ behavior and it should be remembered that almost all insects that maintain colonies will defend the colony when threatened. This includes yellow jackets, hornets and paper wasps to name a few.
Because we live in a semi tropical area of the state, the social insects mentioned above can remain active year round although they will maintain larger numbers of members in the hive during the hotter months of the year.
What this means for the homeowner is the need for year round vigilance. The University of Florida has an excellent document called Bee-Proofing for Florida Citizens. This document provides homeowners steps to bee-proof your home. This document can be accessed at the below address at this link: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in741
What should a person do if encountering an angry swarm of bees?
Leave the area – in other words, RUN. Run and look for an enclosure to enter. This could be your home, your car or a shed. Some of the bees will probably enter the enclosure, but once inside many will become confused and fly to the windows looking for a way out. Even if some continue to pursue you and additional stings are sustained, the number will be fewer than if remaining outside.
Standing your ground and swatting at the bees just angers them more. Jumping in a pool or pond also is ineffective in the long run, as the bees will just wait for you to surface.
If stung multiple times, what should I do?
If you know you are allergic to bee venom, you should have already been prescribed an epinephrine (epi) pen from your doctor. The epi pen will give you about 20 minutes to seek medical attention. If you do not know whether or not you are truly allergic, monitor your vital signs for any indication of respiratory distress and seek help if indicated. Only a tiny percentage of people are truly allergic to bee venom. Most people experience redness, swelling and itching. This is a normal reaction to any insect venom.
With proper attention to our outdoor living spaces and awareness of the risks posed by all stinging insects, we should all be able to enjoy the awesome climate in which we live.
References and further information:
UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab-
UF/IFAS African Honey Bee Extension and Education Program-