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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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State's First Bee-related Death Shows Need for Precautions

LAS CRUCES--A Carlsbad woman's death following an attack by bees Thursday underscores the need for caution outdoors, a New Mexico State University entomologist said.

"If you have bees around your home, contact a pest control professional to help you remove them safely," said Carol Sutherland with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "Don't attempt to handle bees yourself."

Lucille Kincaid died following a bee attack in a Carlsbad backyard Thursday. At least two other people were stung but survived.

New Mexicans must be careful outdoors because aggressive, Africanized honey bees are now confirmed in 10 counties, Sutherland said. The bees have been found in Hidalgo, Grant, Catron, Sierra, Luna, Doņa Ana, Otero, Eddy and Lea counties. A hybrid colony was confirmed in Bernalillo County.

Africanized honey bees are unpredictable and defend their colonies vigorously. "When they sting in large numbers, they can temporarily blind, confuse and terrify you, leaving you too disoriented to escape," Sutherland said.

If you encounter bees outdoors, give them a wide berth, Sutherland said. Loud, persistent buzzing may indicate a swarm or colony of bees is nearby. A swarm looks somewhat like swirling cornflakes, with layers of overlapping bees, she said. Bees in flight are about the size of raisins and may move too quickly to be easily identifiable.

If bees attack, your best defense is to run away as fast as you can. Seek shelter in a building or car where you can get away from the bees.

Seek medical attention immediately if you are stung many times or if you feel faint, see hives developing on your skin or experience difficulty breathing after being stung. If you are allergic to bee stings or think you might be, talk to your doctor about precautions or medication to carry with you.

"Bees are active most of the year in the lower elevations of New Mexico, so it's always a good idea to make regular bee patrols around your house and yard to get rid of nesting sites and check for bee colonies," Sutherland said. "Look under the eaves of your home for crevices that need to be repaired and check the areas of the backyard where you haven't moved things in a while."

In residential areas, some of bees' favorite nesting sites are hollow trees, firewood or lumber piles, utility meter boxes and stacks of debris or toys, she said. "Any of these areas can be readily colonized by bees."

If you find a bee colony, call a professional pest control operator to remove it, she said. Look under the listings for pest control or bee removal in the phone book. "Removing bees is not a do-it-yourself project."

How to make a bee patrol: Fill in potential nesting sites such as tree cavities and holes in outside walls. Put screens on top of rain spouts and over utility meter boxes in the ground. Remove piles of trash and junk.

Once or twice a week, walk around your home and yard. Listen for the sound of bees. Persistent buzzing may mean a swarm or hive nearby. If you find a bee colony, don't disturb it. Call a pest control professional to remove it.

For pamphlets about bees or additional information, call your county Extension office.