21 September 2011

But I Know these bees aren't Africanized Killer Bees !

I'm amazed at folks who insist that honey bees are always gentle, and sting only when provoked by significant provocation. While it's largely true that our managed honey bee colonies, those that we keep in our white bee hive boxes, don't sting en-masse while we work them properly, feral or wild honey bee colonies can be extremely variable in defensive response. Throw in the Africanized Honey Bee (Killer Bee) genetics that we are seeing all over Central Florida, and the defensive responses are hiking up to sometimes dangerous levels.

Maitland Honey Bee colony located in porch floor

We inspect many feral honey bee colonies per day, some gentle, some mean as fire. And then there are those that seem to have some crazies. Take this Maitland bee removal we inspected yesterday. The nest is located above the first story roof line, normally a distance where the bees would hardly notice and certainly not care about a couple humans standing down in the yard.

Right EyeLid swelling 30 minutes after Bee Sting

While talking with the client, a guard bee came down to inspect us, and the client waved her hand (note, NEVER wave your hands at bees, they think it's a provocative act, akin to throwing the handkerchief on the ground), and BAP, the rogue guard bee stung our trainee technician in his Eyelid.

Still the client insisted that there was no way that these were Africanized Killer Bees! (To be fair, we can't ID bees as killer bees or European gentle honey bees until we perform a lengthy lab test involving several dozen sample bees, so we can't say what subspecies they are or aren't either).

Right Eyelid swelling 30 minutes after bee sting

No Big deal, right? we pulled out the stinger promptly, administered anthi-histimanes and ice per protocol. The next day, this is what our tech awoke to:

Right facial swelling prox 18 hours post bee sting

Sexy, eh? While it may look scary, the swelling is actually normal, as fluids tend to accumulate during sleeping and can't properly drain. However, this is not something we encourage our staff to endure. It's our protocol to assume every feral honey bee colony has the capacity to inflict multiple stings within seconds, and that's why are to wear hats on every call...Right Jeff? :-)

 And while we may laugh this off, one sting can prove fatal to a sting-sensitive individual. We know of multiple incidents where folks have died from a single, or a few stings from bees or wasps. Couple that with the significant spike in mean Africanized Killer Bee feral colonies we see in homes, manufactured homes, trees and other locations, it's high time to take these bees serious, and to give them the respect due.

Richard Martyniak, M.Sc., Entomologist and Fla. Registered Beekeeper
The Buzzkillers, LLC


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