It’s that time of year, bee swarming season. Las Vegas Fire & Rescue received several calls over the past few days from concerned citizens reporting swarms of bees in the city. March and April typically mark the beginning of swarming season for bees, a time when the bees will be moving from place to place. Warmer weather and increased outdoor activity leads to the increased possibility of bee encounters.
This morning, Las Vegas firefighters responded to an incident where a large swarm of bees landed on a RTC bus that was carrying passengers while on a downtown route. The swarm landed on the side of the bus to take refuge from the sun, which can kill bees during the day because of the heat. This is only one of a number of encounters with bees in the last two weeks.
What kind of bee is it? All bees in the valley are referred to as “bees.” It doesn’t matter if they are European or Africanized. Both bees act in the same manner. They sting the same way and both produce honey. The only trait that is different is the sting potential, but even European bees can produce enough stings to severely injure someone or cause death. All bees should be handled in the same manner regardless of what type they are.
Swarms of bees move from one place to another. When swarming they get tired or it gets too hot for them to fly, so the bees will find a place to rest and get out of the sun. Many times they will hang from tree branches, street signs, fences, sides of buildings or on an object like a fire hydrant. They just want to be left alone and to rest. Because the swarm is not producing honey or caring for young bees, they will not sting unless provoked, and then usually only in extreme cases. Usually they will rest for a few hours or until late in the afternoon or the next morning. Because the bees are harmless, in most cases they are not exterminated. Safety tape is put up to advise the public of the bees and usually they leave and the tape is taken down.
Bee hives, especially those that are wild, are where the danger lies. Bees will build their hive (their home) in places where predators cannot get to them such as inside sprinkler control boxes, street light poles, utility boxes in sidewalks, inside walls of buildings, inside concrete block walls and inside old hollow trees and desert plants. When the bees begin to produce honey (their food supply) and lay eggs for new bees, they will defend their home. When they believe that either their food supply is threatened or someone will kill their young, they will defend their home by stinging. In many cases this may lead to hundreds of stings. Bees do not attack. They are only defending their home. Sometimes noises such as pounding the ground or tools such as lawnmowers or weed eaters will send out vibrations, which makes the bees believe someone is entering the hive to destroy it. They will send out bees to the source of the noise to defend the hive.
Bee hives are dangerous and should be removed by a professional bee removal service. It should never be done by a civilian. The process requires the use of professional safety gear and clothing. It is the responsibility of the property owner where the bees are located to have them removed if needed. The city of Las Vegas does not remove bees on private property. The Nevada Pest Control Association keeps a list of licensed removal services that is available at 385-5853. Residents should not try to exterminate the bees themselves. Most people do not have the necessary safety equipment to remove bees. Past attempts of people trying to exterminate bees themselves have led to serious injury and death in some cases in the United States. This is extremely dangerous and you are advised to leave this to a professional exterminator.
Here are some safety tips concerning bees:
IF YOU SEE BEES, LEAVE THEM ALONE.
Swarming bees will appear as a large group of bees (that look like a football or basketball) hanging on the side of a building, on a fence, on tree branches or street signs. They sometimes can be found on the ground. Leave them alone. If weather is good, they will usually fly away. When they do, all of the bees will leave together. If you have them exterminated, a number of the bees (stragglers) will remain in the area for a day or two and they will be irritable because they cannot find the rest of the swarm. In most cases the bees will fly away to their destination within a day or two. If they remain for more than three days, you should then consider having them removed by a professional bee removal service.
IN CASE YOU HAVE AN ENCOUNTER WITH BEES . . .
You should run from the bees as quickly as you can. Bees are slow flyers and cannot keep up. Try to cover you face with either your hands or a shirt while running (bees will attack the eyes, nose and mouth).
Seek shelter in a building or vehicle. Do not jump into a pool or lake. The bees will attack when you come up for air.
The bees will continue to be agitated after the attack by loud or humming noises such as barking dogs, lawnmowers, weed eaters, flashing lights, etc. Try to keep the area as quiet and calm as possible.
If it appears that a person is being attacked or other people are in imminent danger because of the attack, you should call 9-1-1 immediately.
If someone is stung by a bee and becomes dizzy, nauseated or has difficulty breathing, an allergic reaction to the sting might be occurring. This is a serious medical emergency and 9-1-1 should be called immediately.
If you are stung, remove the stinger by scraping it out and washing the area with soap and water and applying a cold pack to the sting site.
If you are stung more than 10 times, you should seek medical attention. Reaction to bee venom takes several hours, which may cause you to feel sick later. People with an allergic reaction should call 9-1-1 and seek immediate medical attention.
The term “killer bees” is typically misused in reference to bees and should not be used unless the bees have been properly recognized as such. That is done by the Nevada Department of Agriculture, which has to conduct a certain test for identification purposes, which can take several days.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE BEES AND SAFETY TIPS CAN BE FOUND ON THE CITY’S WEB SITE: WWW.LVALERT.COM OR BY CALLING 229-2000 (a recorded line). DO NOT CALL 9-1-1 TO REPORT SWARMS OF BEES.