Spotlight on the Somerton Swarm

Be Prepared for Angry Bees in Arizona

Concerns about bee attacks have grown ever since a group of 18 farmworkers were swarmed in mid-May while tending to melon fields in Somerton, Arizona. While using the bees in a professional capacity to help pollinate the fruit, a tractor backed into the hive. After doling out hundreds of stings, the group sent five farmers to the hospital with one woman critically ill.

Several similar attacks have surfaced this summer in southwestern Arizona. A young hiker died after being stung by more than 1,000 bees in Mesa, an elderly Phoenix man suffered respiratory distress after encountering a nest in his yard and thousands stormed a Scottsdale condo attacking the family and animals inside.

An aggressive swarm can appear without warning and typically triggers a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) can be vicious in defending their territory and will often attack even if they are not provoked. This relatively new strain first appeared in the U.S. in 1990 in nearby Texas. Since then, the AHB has rapidly multiplied and migrated into every region of Arizona as they thrive in drought-ridden areas.

However, a single bee sting can be just as dangerous as a swarm when a person is allergic, and allergies can develop at any time and at any age, even if a person has been previously bitten and had no reaction. As a result, it is critical that homeowners know how to safely interact with beehives, evade a swarm of angry bees and properly handle bee stings.

You can take several precautions to avoid bees while out enjoying the summer sun. Avoid wearing dark-colored clothing and citrus scents, do not provoke or disturb hives and always carry an epi pen. If you find yourself suddenly facing an angry swarm, it is critical to find an enclosed shelter as quickly as possible. If nothing is available, the University of Arizona Agricultural Department recommends covering your face and running as fast and as far away as you can since bees may follow for up to a quarter of a mile.

Take preventative measures by walking the perimeter of your home to inspect eaves, under porches and inside vents for hives. Pay special attention to any activity around a wall crack, hole in a cacti or pile of junk. Since you might be encroaching upon their territory, be wary of defensive signs that a bee is ready to attack, including buzzing around your body or flying directly at your face.

For safety and environmental reasons, you should never attempt to destroy a large hive on your own. Pest control specialists at Burns Pest Elimination are trained in how to safely remove and relocate bees using ecologically friendly methods. Contact us to schedule an inspection for summertime pests, including bees, mosquitoes, spiders and scorpions.