In South Texas, bees swarm to form new colonies April through July. Two of my landscapers were attacked yesterday, and stung over 200 times. But they are back at work today, with just a small residual amount of pain. So let’s talk about bees, and hopefully avoid that pain.
This is the time of year that it may pay to scout an area before doing yard work, or sending kids or pets out to play. Listen for buzzing, watch for numbers of bees flying in a straight line (usually to or from a hive). Swarms may form on house eaves or branches, or in brush piles. Hives may establish in tree hollows, brush, building walls, wood piles, or meter boxes. Swarms may be European bees (not so aggressive) or Africanized bees (very aggressive) but don’t try to distinguish which yourself. The potency of the individual sting is the same, it is the number of stings delivered that is different. Call an expert, such as South Texas Apiary, 361-299-2337, for diagnosis and removal. City of Corpus Christi Vector Control, 361-826-2489, will also respond to swarm sightings or attacks, and will do some exterminations if exposed, but no rescue and relocation of bees.
The safe zone that Africanized bees normally defend is initially 20’ to 40’ from the hive or swarm, but once agitated, they will follow and continue to attack a victim to half a mile. They are sensitive to vibrations (lawn mower or weedeater), dark clothing, and the smell of bananas! So don’t mow the lawn wearing a mink coat and waving a banana. They will key in on dark areas of the face, such as nostrils, eyes, and ears, so if attacked, run fast and far (over ½ mile), protect your face if possible, find an enclosed space such as car or building if close. Better to be stung by the 20 bees that followed you into the garage than the 2000 bees that are right behind them. Do not stop at a water faucet and attempt to wash them off, the attack will continue, and people have died because they did not continue to run or find a safe haven. Flailing your arms or smashing bees will only attract more bees, so just run!
Less than 1% of the population is allergic to bee stings, so most adults can suffer over 1000 stings before their life is in danger, less for children and the elderly. The stingers continue to pump venom into the skin for 1 minute after the initial sting, so removing the stingers by scraping with credit card, fingernail, or knife should be done as soon as you can safely stop running. If you see a healthy adult being attacked, do not approach them, encourage them to keep running. You cannot stop the bees from attacking them, you will just bring more bees attacking you. Follow them at a distance, and aid them once the attack has ceased due to shelter or distance. A 2% mix of dishwashing liquid in water, sprayed over a victim, will kill any remaining bees, and remove the attack chemical signal the victim has been marked with. Removing clothing will remove many stingers, scrape away the rest, and Benadryl will likely be indicated, but if stings are numerous, seek medical attention, as steroids and anti-nausea medications may provide further relief.