Category Archives: Bees

Identifying Common Types of Bees in Arizona

IDENTIFYING COMMON TYPES OF BEES IN ARIZONA
Arizona is home to many types of bees. There are about 20,000 different species of bees in the world. With the exception of Antarctica, bees are found throughout the world. The greatest diversity of bee species is found in warm, arid or semiarid areas, like the Southwest.

Bees play an important role in nature pollinating plants and wildflowers as well as providing wax and honey. Bees are dependent on pollen as an important protein source and on flower nectar or oils as an energy source. Most bees will not sting unless they feel threatened. Social bees, such as honey bees, are the most common type in Arizona and will typically sting in order to protect their colonies or babies.

HONEY BEES

Closeup of an American Honey Bee

Although some types of bees may be solitary, the honey bee is a social insect and populates in colonies or hives. These hive colonies have a three-tier caste system consisting of: the single queen bee whose only job is to lay eggs; male drones that mate with the queen and die soon thereafter; and female worker bees that don’t reproduce. However the worker bees perform many jobs necessary for the survival of the hive; they clean the hive, collect pollen and nectar to feed the colony, and they take care of the offspring. Their wax hives are perennial and can harbor up to 80,000 bees at once. The average lifespan of a honey bee queen is two to three years – considerably longer than the six weeks of a female worker bee.

Honey bees are the most active in summer months; during winter, bees gather within the hive and self-regulate the internal temperature to keep warm. Honey bees also have specialized feathery body hairs that help collect pollen. They are the most important pollinating insects, and their interdependence with plants is mutually beneficial. While foraging, bees inadvertently transfer pollen from flower to flower resulting in cross-pollination. Honey bees are vital in agriculture as pollinators and they account for 80% of all insect pollination. Each year, bees pollinate an estimated $10 billion of crops in the United States alone. And some estimate that these insect pollinators contribute to one-third of the world’s diet. In addition to being important pollinators, honey bees have an organ that converts flower nectar into honey, which is collected inside the hive or bee colony.

AFRICANIZED HONEY BEES (AHB)

Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) are distantly related to the common domestic European honey bee. This bee, first brought from Africa to Brazil in the mid-1950s in hopes of breeding a bee better adapted to the South American climate, escaped into the wild and its descendants have been moving slowly north toward the US ever since. The first AHB colonies arrived in southern Arizona in the early summer of 1993. They are becoming more prevalent in the Southwest and can now be found in most of Texas, almost half of New Mexico, throughout Arizona, the majority of New Mexico, and portions of California as they continue their migration northward.

Truly Nolen Bee Removal

The “Africanized” honey bee – melodramatically labeled “killer bees” – is a hybrid between domesticated European honey bees and African honey bees. Compared to European bees, the AHB are more likely to sense a threat at greater distances, become more upset with less provocation, and sting a greater number of times, although individual stings from the AHB are not more powerful or painful. AHBs defend their hives very attentively. But away from the hive, they are no more aggressive than other bees or wasps. With their hairy bodies, yellowish-orange abdomens with black bands, to the untrained eye the AHB looks very similar to the honey bee. Only a trained entomologist, using sophisticated laboratory equipment, can tell them apart via a precise measurement or genetic testing.

IDENTIFYING A BEE HIVE

Bees are all around us most of the year in Arizona and typically forage around flowers and water. Foraging bees may sting if they are disturbed accidentally or intentionally. They may also become defensive if they are foraging close to the colony. Avoid close contact with them, and they will go about their nectar-gathering without a second thought to the humans around.

A Hive of American Honey Bees

Just like their mild-mannered relative the domestic honey bees, the Africanized honey bees establish colonies of up to 40,000 individual bees. Both types of bees will swarm, a process where the swarm forms a visible cluster of many bees that is on the move (hundreds to thousands). The queen sets out to find a new location for the hive, some of her worker bees come along with her. They will temporary stop-over to allow the queen to rest but will eventually produce new colonies. Don’t panic – most honeybee swarms are not dangerous if you leave them well alone and keep your distance.

AHB colonies have faster growth rates, which means more swarms splitting off from a nest. Each Africanized honeybee colony typically swarms four to eight times annually compared to an annual rate of less than one swarm per five colonies for European honeybees. They will not however form large swarms and hunt for you as suggested in some movies. If you encounter an AHB swarm, never dive underwater, the swarm will simply wait for you to surface stinging your head and face when you surface. If you are being chased, run in a straight line – AHBs are slow fliers and most people can out run them. Treat honey bee colonies as you would a venomous creature such as a snake or a scorpion; be alert and stay away.

Honey bees are social creatures that create large communal hives with nesting galleries and large honeycombs. AHBs are not specific about the location of their hives, making it likely for them to come into contact with humans. Bees who are working to establish a colony can be seen actively entering and exiting small holes/voids in hollow tree trunks, walls, junk piles, pots, eaves, roofs, or similar location.

REMOVING A BEE HIVE

Never attempt to remove a hive on your own. Be careful and remain calm. If you think you may have a bee infestation, you must first call an expert to determine whether you’re actually dealing with bees and not some other stinging insect. Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets are sometimes mistaken for bees. Bees are commercially valuable and an important part of our ecosystem, but in the wrong place at the wrong time, they can become pest. The sooner a hive can be identified, the safer and cheaper it can be to have removed as established colonies can be extremely protective of the hive.

Homeowners should immediately contact a pest control company and take special precautions to avoid agitating bees to prevent being stung. Do not try to remove a colony yourself.

Professional Bee Hive RemovalA professional hive removal will focus on removing the queen bee from the hive. If the queen is not removed from the hive bees will continue to return. Relocation of the hive must also be considered in concert with a commercial bee expert for agricultural reasons. If the hive can’t be relocated safely treatments to remove the hive will be conducted. Your bee control professional will apply treatments on the exterior of the hive working inward to kill the bees and properly bag and dispose of the hive. When the hive is removed it is knocked down within an enclosed area and material is forced into the void and within the combs to ensure all bees are dead and removed. Though their venom is no more or less toxic, the AHB tends to sting in greater numbers and is more easily provoked than the European honey bee. Keep pets and children well away from any suspected nesting sites until you get a professional inspection.

WHAT TO DO IF STUNG BY A HONEY BEE

People can all react to honey bee stings differently. Generally, however honey bee stings do not pose a health concern unless an individual is allergic or sensitive. If the stung person is allergic, go to the hospital immediately or use an epinephrine shot, if available. Most importantly, stay calm. And if possible, get to a cool indoor location. If you are stung and can’t find shelter indoors, avoid running near other people. Once you have been stung a chemical called a pheromone signals to other bees that you are a threat inviting other defensive bees to sting.

In general, bees tend to sting people or animals when they feel threatened. Remember that your pets can also be vulnerable to bee stings and keep them away from bee hives. While yellow jackets, hornets and wasps tend to sting repeatedly during an attack, worker bees are equipped with barbed stingers that have little barbs or hooks on them and typically become lodged in the skin. When a bee stings, its stinger, the venom sac attached to the stinger, and other parts of the honey bee’s body rip away from the insect’s body and are left behind, killing the bee. Although the bee dies, its sting takes effect quickly, and, if the stinger is not removed quickly, the symptoms gradually increase as the venom sac continues to pump venom into the wound for several seconds. So if you are stung, it is important to remove the stinger and poison sac as quickly as possible. Do not pull them out with tweezers or your fingers as this will only squeeze more venom into the wound. Scrape them out using your fingernails, the edge of a credit card or a dull knife.

After removing the stinger, it is important to immediately clean the area with soap and cold water and to use cold compression like an ice pack. It is also helpful to elevate the limb where you were stung. Over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also help to reduce the pain. An antihistamine and hydrocortisone ointment can help calm the local reaction. In case the local reaction worsens, your doctor may prescribe an oral steroid or antihistamine to help calm the swelling or itching.

SYMPTOMS OF A BEE ALLERGY

The symptoms that result from a sting vary, depending on the amount of poison that has entered the victim’s system. Typically, people who get stung will immediately feel a sharp, burning pain, rapidly followed by a red welt at the sting site, with a small, white spot at the center marking where the stinger punctured the skin. In most cases, the swelling and pain resolves within a few hours, however, as many as 10 percent of individuals develop a large local reaction experiencing exaggerated redness and swelling at the sting site.

Although a bee sting is not commonly hazardous, some people may be allergic to the bee’s venom. Those who have sensitivity to bees should immediately seek out emergency medical assistance or call 9-1-1 if they experience symptoms of an allergic reaction. In rare cases, individuals experience an extreme allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis. These reactions may be life threatening and require immediate medical treatment. Seek immediate medical attention if you exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • Itching and swelling around the eyes
  • Tongue and throat swelling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry cough
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Hives, rashes, or generalized itching
  • Rapid or weak pulse
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Shock or loss of consciousness

If you are stung multiple times or experience any of the above symptoms, even if you don’t have a sensitivity, you should seek medical attention as a precaution. If you come in contact with an Africanized honey bee, the most important thing to do is not panic. Most deaths related to bee stings happen because people panic and act irrational. Each year, stinging insects send approximately half a million people to the emergency room and are the leading cause of anaphylaxis-related deaths in the United States.

San Antonio takes on local beehive

Days before Halloween, San Antonio removed a neighborhood beehive after residents complained of hundreds of bees swarming surrounding homes.

The hive was inside the exterior wall of a vacant house. Ruby Ortiz, who lives next door to the once infested home, told KSAT 12 she was afraid trick-or-treaters would get stung. Ortiz says the bees were entering her home. "They're starting to go into the kids' room, my daughter's room," she said. "They don't want to be in there because there's a whole swarm of bees inside."

Ortiz said she called the city several times over a two-month period, but received no response. She then emailed KSAT, which contacted the Metropolitan Health Department. Code Enforcement sent in a bee removal team.

According to the TV station, the emergency crew cut into the wall to remove honeycomb and bees. At first, the city refrained from intervening because of property rights. However, evidence of public danger reversed the decision.

"Where it could become a safety issue for the residents around there the city is allowed to go in and abate that and we'll charge the owner," the assistant director of Development Services told the station.

Bees can be extremely troublesome for homeowners and present serious danger to anyone who is allergic to their stings. Hives can be quickly and efficiently removed by professional pest control services.

Honey, I’m home: Keeping bees out of the house

A South Florida family recently experienced a scare when they realized their home had been invaded by honey bees.

Several thousand bees began to build a new hive inside the home after they were able to enter house through a hole in a wall.

A local bee expert told Miami-area Fox affiliate WSNV that the infestation was "a new swarm of bees." He said the pests likely lived in a hive that became overcrowded, so the swarm left in order to start a new hive elsewhere.

The man told the source that just a day in the house was enough time for the bees to start constructing their new hive. The bee expert told the source that he estimated that in just 24 hours, the insects could build a piece of wax roughly the size of an adult's hand. Since the family had the infestation removed in a timely fashion, there was not a large amount of wax or honey to clean up.

Once a queen bee establishes a new hive, she lays thousands of eggs daily. That means once the eggs begin to hatch, the population of a small beehive can drastically increase in a short period of time.

Because the hive in the Miami-area home had only just been established, the source reports there were only about 3,000 bees inside. Hives that have more time to develop and grow can house tens of thousands of the pests. In some instances, hives can hold up to 60,000 bees.

'Bee'ting the pesky pests
There are several steps homeowners can take to prevent their homes from becoming beehive-friendly. Making sure there are no cracks or holes is important to keep the pests from getting into walls and ceilings. Even if they are not in the home, bees can still bug the family. Getting rid of shelter for the bees will keep them from building a hive on the outside of a home. Empty flower pots, holes in trees, boxes and space in drainage tiles provide plenty of room for bees to begin building a hive. To further prevent the bees from thinking your home is a hospitable place to start their hive, it is advisable to eliminate puddles to prevent the bees from having access to drinking water.

When a homeowner has taken all the necessary steps and a bee infestation still occurs, he or she may want to contact pest control professionals immediately. An insect control company can ensure that the pests are safely removed, especially since a homeowner may anger dangerous Africanized bees when attempting to remove them! An exterminator can also provide input as to the best way to prevent future hives from forming.

Bees damage Florida home

When a Miami woman noticed humming in the walls of her rental home six months ago, she knew something wasn't right. Recently, the noise increased and began to sound like a motor was running behind the drywall, California-based NBC affiliate KSBY reported.

Thousands of honey bees were the source of all the noise. The property's landlord, who lives nearby, attempted to assist the woman in ridding the home of the insects by spraying them. They discovered the problem was too big for them to handle when they learned the bees were living in the ceilings over two different bedrooms.

Insect control professionals were brought in to handle the situation. After removing the drywall from the affected areas, bees swarmed inside the house and outside. One expert told the renter that she had at least 60,000 bees living in the home.

The source reports that when the pest control professionals cut through the ceiling in one of the bedrooms, honey flowed from the cracks. The pests built honeycomb around the drywall and even in the cinderblocks. The drywall will need to be replaced, and the cinder blocks will need to be removed. The landlord fears a new infestation of rats or cockroaches if the bee infestation is not cleaned up properly.

Bees attack Texas town

Hundreds of bees attacked a neighborhood in El Paso, Texas, when something disturbed a local man's backyard beehives, according to El Paso-area Fox affiliate KFOX.

Firefighters were called to the scene to disperse the swarm of insects. The bees were discovered by a woman who noticed her dog had been attacked. The canine was stung trying to get to safety.

The fire department used foam to kill the aggressive pests, and found out the swarm had come from a neighbor's beehives. Although beekeeping is not illegal in the area, it can be a risky venture, especially if young children or animals live nearby.

The source reported that the man plans to remove any surviving bees from his yard and relocate them to prevent a future swarm.

One neighbor said a similar situation has occurred with the man's bees once already, and she fears another attack.

One firefighter was stung during the attack, but did not require medical attention. The dog has been reported to be in good condition.

Aggressive swarms of bees can be dangerous, and homeowners should use caution if they see a swarm. Pest control professionals should be contacted to handle such situations.

Bee swarm frightens Florida neighborhood

An enormous swarm of honeybees recently invaded a neighborhood in Isles of Capri, Florida. The swarm took over a light pole near a large condominium building.

Residents kept away from the swarm, unsure if they were Africanized bees, which can be very aggressive. The Marco Island Sun Times reported that after multiple residents became concerned about the situation and inquired when the bees would be removed, the condo building's maintenance department contacted pest control professionals to determine how to best deal with the swarm.

After being told not to disturb the insects, the maintenance supervisor roped off the area around the light post and put up signs warning residents to keep clear of the post until the swarm had been dealt with.

The news source stated that it is likely the swarm consisted of wild honey bees and did not pose a serious threat to residents.

Some swarms can consist of Africanized bees, which can become dangerous if provoked or threatened by humans. Homeowners concerned about a beehive or swarms of the insects in their area should contact pest control specialists to handle the situation safely.

Giant beehive in Florida neighborhood

An enormous beehive has Port St. Lucie, Florida, residents pleading for pest control.

A giant beehive has taken over an abandoned home in a residential neighborhood. One homeowner told West Palm Beach-area CBS affiliate WPEC that from what she can see, the hive is taller than her young daughter.

Locals told WPEC that neighborhood children fear the hive and try to stay away from the home. One resident said that the situation was a tragedy waiting to happen. Even homeowners are fearful of the bees. WPEC reports that swarms of the insects swarm when some neighbors approach the abandoned home.

City officials told the source that they sympathize with the community, but there are rules they must abide by, since the hive is on private property. The city is making efforts to contact the homeowners, who neighbors say walked away from the property a while ago. Regardless of who ultimately deals with the problem, the homeowners will be held responsible for the cost associated with the bee removal, according to WPEC.

Homeowners concerned about bee infestations in their area should contact insect control professionals to inspect the problem and safely remove the pests.