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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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'Bee' aware of swarms of bees

Though the Twilight Zone stage play is causing quite a stir, the latest buzz on the New Mexico State University campus is being produced by small cyclones of bees.

of bees have been spotted on campus. NMSU fire and police departments encourage the public to be aware of their surroundings.

"While swarming is supposedly more common in the spring, with our mild weather it can occur all year 'round," said Carol Sutherland, an NMSU Extension entomology specialist. "People can spot swarms of bees any day that is sunny, warm and relatively calm."

Swarming involves a massive movement of bees flying from a colony to a new destination.

While southern New Mexico is home to a variety of pollinators, the familiar European honey bees and Africanized honey bees are widely distributed in this area and are more likely involved in swarming incidents, Sutherland said.

Africanized honey bees were first documented in New Mexico in 1993 and are known to be in 10 New Mexico counties, nearly all in the southern part of the state.

"While European honey bees have been selected for gentle behavior by beekeepers, Africanized honey bees are wild and unpredictable whether they are in established colonies or in swarms," she said. "Once their swarm has settled and the queen has started a new colony, Africanized honey bees are likely to defend it vigorously and with little provocation."

Sutherland added: "Larger numbers of Africanized bees may chase you half a mile or so more compared to a colony of European honey bees. The European honey bees respond to intruders, but usually have a more limited attention span and settle fairly quickly."

Since they are closely related, people can't see the difference between Africanized and European honey bees with the naked eye.

To prevent an attack, you can follow some precautions: When you are outdoors listen for the sound of bees in the air, persistent buzzing may mean a hive or swarm is nearby; make a "bee patrol" around your home once or twice a week during swarming seasons; "bee proof" your home by filling in or repairing potential nesting sites such as tree cavities, holes in outside walls or roof lines; put screens on top of roof vents or drain spouts and over water meter boxes in the ground; and respect bees, leave them alone when they are pollinating flowers.

If a swarm or a bee colony has established on your property, don't remove it yourself. A licensed pest control company or bee removal service should be called.

Sutherland said if an attack occurs people should run away as fast as they can and seek shelter in a car or building. "If possible, while you are running, pull your shirt collar up to protect your neck and head, since that is where most of the injuries occur," she said. Call 911 once you are safe.

If you are stung, do not try to remove the stinger(s) with tweezers or your finger; this will squeeze more venom into your body. The best way to remove a stinger is to scrape it off with your fingernail or the edge of a dull knife, or try using a credit card or driver's license.

People need to seek emergency medical care immediately if they are stung multiple times or start to feel ill. Allergic reactions to bee venom can be fatal and occur quickly.

Sutherland said some indications of venom sensitivity are fainting, sweating, tunnel vision, intense itching, dizziness, development of hives or colored blotches on the skin, tightness in the throat or difficulty breathing.

For more information, contact Sutherland at (505) 646-1132.