The key differences between European honey bees and Africanized honey bees are:
1. The tendency toward aggression is higher in Africanized honey bees. They don’t like noise and will attack because of it. Proximity to their hive is also sensitive and they will attack if they feel you are too close to home.
2. The number of guardian bees on the ready to attack intruders are greater in the Africanized honey bee nests. The venom of Africanized honey bees isn’t more potent than the European honey bee venom. The potential number of stings one can receive from Africanized bees makes them more dangerous than European honey bees.
Africanized honey bees are currently found in the southern parts of California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida. This list will continue to grow, as there are more states in warm regions where Africanized bees can thrive. If we expect to coexist, we need to understand the proper precautions to follow while we are out enjoying nature. This is similar to respecting other dangerous species; we don’t rid the Earth of them, we find ways to give them the respect they demand.
To prevent an attack:
1. Listen for buzzing in large numbers. This is indicative of a large hive nearby.
2. Look for guardian bees bumping you in a confrontational manner, and taking an interest in you more than flowers. Foragers are out collecting pollen and nectar, not bumping other species. This behavior indicates that a hive may be nearby and you should probably turn and go back to where you came from. Don’t bat these bees, they will begin stinging, and once that’s begun, their friends will come in great numbers to finish the job.
3. Always carry a means to cover your head. This is the primary target, and does the most damage. If you can cover your head and prevent more stings, you can get away without going to the emergency room.
4. If you are allergic to bee stings, always carry an EpiPen. This will save your life!
5. Inform your children of the dangers and how to do all of the above too. Being informed is everyone’s best defense.
If you find yourself under attack follow these steps to escape:
1. Cover your head immediately. The head is the target the bees are aiming for. They will go after other parts of your body so the next step is equally important.
2. Run! Get yourself into a safe structure, never a body of water. The bees will wait for you to emerge, which is inevitable, as we need oxygen to live. So, a structure is best, like a tent, car, bathroom, building, etc.
3. If you are stung upwards of 15 times, seek medical attention immediately. Bee venom times 15 can harm anyone, whether allergic to bee venom or not.
4. Do not remove stingers with tweezers or your fingers. The mechanics of this squeezes more venom into your body, not a great idea. Instead, use a blunt edge, like the edge of a credit card, and scrape the stingers out as you glide the card across your skin.
Finally, if you find a hive of bees on your property, and you find it to be aggressive every time you are outside, have it removed. Contact your local beekeepers association. The beekeepers association will have contact information for professional hive removal services.