Honey Bees | Resources & Info | Beekeeping Classes | FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What do I do about AHB?
A. Call the Arkansas State Plant Board or your county cooperative extension agent or look in your local Yellow Pages under “Pest Control” and call a licensed Pest Control Operator. DO NOT attempt to kill or remove the bees yourself. If the swarm or colony is in one of the colored areas on the Arkansas map, the bees should be destroyed and may not be saved.
Q. What do I do if attacked? Do’s and Don’ts
What to do in a stinging incident - PPT
A: During an attack:
- Do run. Run away as fast as possible. Get into a building or vehicle if you can.
- Do try to cover your face and head as you run.
- Do call 911.
- Do start removing stingers from your skin once you are away from the bees.
- You can remove them by scraping, pulling, or using sticky tape. Do not leave the stingers in any longer than necessary, as they will continue to pump venom.
- Do get medical attention if you feel sick or are having an allergic reaction.
- Don’t stop to remove stingers until you are safely away from the attacking bees.
- Don’t jump into water. This only works in cartoons. The bees will see you and wait for you to come up for air.
- Don’t panic.
Q. How can I avoid problems with AHB?
How to Avoid a Stinging Incident - PPT
How to Bee Proof Your Property - PPT
A. To prevent AHB, do "bee-proofing" around your property. This involves sealing up all cracks and holes larger than 1/8 inch that lead into a wall void, attic or sub-area. This can be done with stucco patch, caulking, and screen. Caulking now comes in various colors so you don’t have a bright white stripe where the crack was. Most vent screens are normally 1/4 inch mesh. You can purchase 1/8 inch mesh hardware cloth, cut pieces to size and fit them in behind the existing vent screens. This does not involve major renovation of your vents.
Remove or eliminate junk piles, upturned pots, old bee equipment, or any place that could offer a nice, sheltered place for bees to set up housekeeping, become more aware of your surroundings and watch for bee activity around your property. If you spot some on your neighbor’s property, let them know.
If you see a large number of bees in a given area, see bees swarming, or hear loud buzzing coming from an enclosed area, DO NOT approach the bees, or attempt to destroy the colony yourself!
Contact a pest control company or the State Agriculture Department Arkansas State Plant Board for assistance.
Be careful when camping or hiking to avoid any area that looks as if it could harbor bees, and to keep dogs under control - if they disturb bees, you may both be attacked.
Never disturb or tease bees for any reason!
Q. I have noticed a strange looking bee around my home. How can I find out if it is the Africanized honeybee that I've heard so much about?
A. The answer depends on where you live in Oklahoma. If you live is Southern and Southwestern part of the state you may have Africanized honeybees.
You can also contact your local county Cooperative Extension Service agent for assistance in getting information on identification of bees and other stinging insects.
If the bees are aggressive and threatening you may contact call Mr. Doug Dear at (405) 205-2699 of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry’s Africanized Honeybee Task Force to report any aggressive bee swarms.
Q. What is the scientific name for Africanized honeybees and can they mate with other honeybees?
A. The Africanized Honeybee is a hybrid of a strain of honeybees from Africa, Apis mellifera scutellata, and basicaly any other honeybee that it can mate with and produce viable off-spring. In the United States this could be Apis mellifera ligustica (Italian honeybee), Apis mellifera carnica (Carniolian honeybee), Apis mellifera caucasica (Caucasian honeybee), and Apis mellifera mellifera (Dark honeybee).
Q. There are bees building a hive near our home. We walk past their hive a lot and them seem very calm and not dangerous at all, so they probably are not the Africanized honeybees, right?
A. While bees are building a hive, they are not likely to sting. That is because they are busy building the home and do not have anything in it that they feel they must defend. Typically, honeybees only sting when they feel that something is threatening their baby bees and honey. So, until the hive is built and full, the honeybees will seem very docile or calm. That is true of both regular European honeybees and Africanized honeybees. The only way to find out if honeybees are European or Africanized is to have a sample analyzed. But you should go ahead and have a trained pest control person remove the hive that is under construction before the bees set up house and become defensive.
Q. A hive of bees seems to be building a hive in the outside wall of our house. Since they're in the wall, they probably won't bother us. Is it alright to let them live there or should we think about having them removed?
A. Bees should never be allowed to build or remain in the walls of a structure. For one thing, they will become very defensive of their hive once they have made honey and begun to develop baby bees. That means people and pets that happen by the hive could be stung by the defensive bees. But bees in walls also cause a problem with the building structure because of the massive amounts of honeycomb and honey that can be stored. Killing the bees from such a hive is extremely difficult to do without completely tearing into the wall. Also, all the honeycomb and honey has to be removed or it can become rank and attract other pests. The best thing to do is to never allow bees to build in the walls. Make a check of your home and other structures on your property to see that they are no holes that bees can enter. If you find that bees already are building in a wall, call a pest control operator immediately to get them removed.
Q. We recently found out that bees are living in the wall of our garage and want them removed. Can we kill them by spraying the hole where they enter or is there a better way?
A. No, simply spraying the hole of an entryway into any hive will not kill all the insects that are inside. Call a pest control operator who is knowledgeable about bee removal for assistance.
Q. I heard that soapy water is a simple way to kill bees. Why is that and how can I do it?
A. Soapy water is one approved way to kill bees, but it has to be done with caution. The reason that soapy water kills bees is that the outer body of the bee has a waxy coating. In just the way that some commercials show soap cutting through grease on a dirty pan, the soap works through the waxy body and allows the water to enter, in effect drowning the bee. But it has to be done with caution, because enough soapy water has to be applied at once to all the bees or they will get mad and begin to sting before the effect can take place. If most of the bees are unreachable in a hive, therefore, spraying soapy water on the few bees that can be seen outside of the hive will not have much of an impact.
Q. I was out in the yard behind my home and noticed a huge mass of bees all balled up in a tree. I've never seen a swarm like that and I'm afraid that they are going to attack my family and pets. How can I make them leave?
A. Swarms of bees is a phenomena that is most likely in the spring and fall each year. Swarms develop when a hive gets too full or crowded. The bees in the old hive make a new queen and she flies off with most of the younger bees of the colony to find a new place to live. The swarm lands on something that will enable them to stay huddled together while a few scout bees fly on to try to locate a suitable place to build a new hive. Because a swarm is in essence a group of homeless bees, they have nothing to protect. So, they are not likely to sting anything because they do not feel defensive. As for making them leave, it is best to let them stay put. Swatting at them could anger them and make them feel threatened into stinging. But just make sure that you have secured your property so that they do not feel like it would be a good place to build. And keep a watch while the swarm is near to see that the scouts haven't located a place near where people and pets will be. That way, the scout bees will keep looking until they find a place further away that is less likely to be disturbed by people and animals.
Q. My child was just stung by a bee and I'm afraid that it might have been Africanized. What should we do, and how can we find out what type of bee it is?
A. First of all, make sure to remove the stinger. Scrape it out sidewise so that you don't pinch the venom sack and make it squirt more venom into your child. Refer to our First Aid page to find out more. Treatment for honeybee stings is the same regardless of whether the bees are Africanized. Refer to the information above on how to have bee samples analyzed.
Q. My friend and I are having a disagreement. Are Africanized honeybees bigger than regular honeybees? Please settle our argument.
A. Africanized honeybees actually are smaller, slightly, than regular honeybees. It is not possible to tell them apart just from looking at them with the naked eye. The bees must be analyzed in a lab through a process of dissection and measuring various body parts that are then compared against a huge database of measurements to determine if the bees fall into the range of bees that have proven in the past to be Africanized.
Q. Is the venom from an Africanized honeybee more poisonous than a regular honeybee?
A. No, the venom from both honeybees is chemically the same. And, because the Africanized honeybee is slightly smaller than the regular honeybee, it actually has slightly less venom.
Q. Can Africanized honeybees sting more than once?
A. No, worker honeybees, whether Africanized or regular European, only sting once. That is because the edges of their stinger are jagged. So, when a worker honeybee penetrates the skin with its stinger, the jagged edges get caught and can not be pulled back out. The worker honeybee tries and tries to free herself anyway and eventually she pulls her body away from the stinger. That means that she "bleeds" to death while the stinger remains in the body attached to a muscle and venom sac that continues to pump venom until it is empty or the stinger removed.
Q. We're thinking about buying some property in Southwest Oklahoma. I heard that the Africanized honeybees have been found there. Should we buy there or consider some other place where the bees haven't migrated?
A. Bees first migrated to Texas from Mexico in 1990. In that time, the people who live along the border have learned how to live there and avoid being stung. They are an example for the rest of us. Africanized bees now have spread to more than one fourth of Oklahoma and into parts of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. In those states, too, people have learned how to avoid being stung by honeybees. So, go ahead and purchase property wherever you want, but be sure to learn how to avoid all kinds of stinging insects. Check out the article “How to Bee Proof Your Property” your property on our website.
Q. How many people have died from Africanized honeybee stings?
A. From 1990 to July 2004 there have been fourteen fatalities in the United States from Africanized honeybee stings. No one has died in Oklahoma from Africanized honeybee stings.
Q. I'm doing a paper for school on Africanized honeybees. Can you send me all the information you have on them?
A. Additional information Africanized honeybees can be found at the following links:
Oklahoma State University Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology
Africanized Bees – General
Q. Why are Africanized honeybees called 'killer bees'?
A. The name "killer" was first used in a news magazine report several decades ago when it was reported that several people died after having been stung by the bees. The name was only used once at that time and was greatly exaggerated. A B-grade movie then was made in which the "killer" bees attacked Houston and caused a lot of death and destruction in that city. Though the movie was complete fiction, the widespread perception of the Africanized honeybees being killers was launched.
Q. Why don't researchers think of a way to kill all the Africanized honeybees?
A. Africanized honeybees, like their cousins the regular European honeybee, actually are useful in helping to pollinate plants. Scientists still are trying to learn more about the value of Africanized honeybees, and in some South and Central American countries and in their native African, these bees are maintained for honey production. Even if they never are used for honey production in the United States, it would not be possible to kill one kind of honeybee without killing other types. And because the population of regular honeybees has been greatly harmed by a deadly mite in recent years, honeybees are desperately needed to pollinate our crops and flowers.
Q. My friend says that honeybees are actually good to have around, but I am afraid of them. How can they be good for us when they are so likely to sting?
A. Honeybees are the best pollinators of our crops and flowers. Without honeybees, we will have inferior fruit and vegetable crops, both commercially and in our home gardens. History has shown us that we can learn to live with honeybees safely.
Q. How does temperature and altitude affect Africanized honeybees? Do they hibernate? Can they live in cold climates?
A. It is not known how far north AHB can live in the US. They have been found to be able to live in the Andes Mountains in South America. The limiting factor seems to be that they tend to not store food as other honeybees do. So, when it becomes winter and there are not flowers blooming from which to make honey, they starve to death.
Q. Are bee stings acidic or alkaline? What about wasp stings?
A. Bee and wasp venoms consist of complex mixtures of biogenic amines, protein (polypeptide) toxins and enzymes. The stinging effects are not due to the acidity or alkalinity of the venom per se.
Q. What is the genus, species, etc (proper science classification) for killer bees?
A. The Africanized honeybee is a hybrid of a strain of honeybees from Africa, Aphis mellifera scutellata, and basically any other honeybee that it can mate with and produce viable off-spring. In the United States this could be Aphis mellifera ligustica (Italian honeybee), Aphis mellifera carnica (Carniolian honeybee), Aphis mellifera caucasica (Caucasian honeybee), and Aphis mellifera mellifera (Dark honeybee).
Q. How do I collect a sample for identification?
A. YOU DON'T!!
Because of the aggressive nature of AHB (or honey bees in general) it takes specialized equipment to safely collect a sample. You can report suspect bee colonies to your local County Extension office and they may be able to determine if it is a wild swarm or possibly some other type of stinging insect. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry has established an Africanized honey bee task force to handle any bee collecting and eradication. Please call Mr. Doug Dear at (405) 205-2699 to report any aggressive bee swarms.