Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

AHB - General Safety Information


What Do I Need to Know About Africanized Honey bees?

1. What do Africanized honey bees look like?

Africanized honey bees look just like common honey bees. Only a highly trained expert can tell them apart. They are about 5/8 inch long deep burnt-orange-yellow color with Alternating dark bands around their "tail" (abdomen).

2. So how are they different from "regular" honey bees?

Africanized honey bees are more easily aroused to defend their nests than the bees we are used to. More bees come to the defense, too. But even regular bees will sting if you arouse them by threatening their home.

3. If I find bees feeding in my yard, what should I do?

Honey bees live in large groups (60,000 to 80,000 bees). Single worker bees fly as far as three miles to collect pollen and nectar from flowers to feed themselves and their offspring. Sometimes they visit humming bird feeders for sugar water. They also collect water from birdbaths or swimming pools. Bees gathering food will sting only if they are trapped in clothing, pinned down somehow, stepped on, or otherwise threatened. Single bees should be left alone.

4. What if I see many bees?

If you regularly see many bees, you should be alert to the possibility there may be a wild honey bee colony nearby. Look for numerous bees flying in and out of an opening such as a crack in a wall, hole in the ground or in the cover of a water valve box.

If you do find a swarm or an established bee colony in your neighborhood, keep everyone away from the bees and call your local office of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, local authorities, a pest control company or an experienced beekeeper. The number for the Salt Lake City Office is (801) 538-4912.

Do not try to remove colonies yourself or shoot, throw rocks at, pour gasoline on, burn, treat with pesticides, otherwise threaten any bee colonies.

Don't ignore bee colonies around your home, even if they don't seem to be a problem. Small colonies that have recently established a nest may be docile at first, but become more defensive with age. You should have wild honey bee swarms or colonies removed as soon as possible.

5. What should you do if you accidentally disturb a colony and are attacked?

You should RUN away as fast as you can. Get to the shelter of a house, or car as quickly as possible. Because the bees target your head and eyes, try to cover your head as much as you can, without slowing your progress. Do not flail or attempt to swat the bees, just get away fast. If you are far from shelter, try to run through tall brush. This will confuse and slow them while you make your way out of the area. Do not dive into water, the bees will wait for you to surface.

If you see someone being attacked by bees, encourage them to run away or seek, shelter. Do not attempt to rescue them yourself unless you have a bee suit and proper training.

Call 911 for emergency help.

Once you are away from the bees, examine yourself for stingers. When a honey bee stings, it leaves its stinger and venom sac behind in the skin which kills the bee.

Do not compress the stinger by trying to pull it out with tweezers or your fingers as this will only squeeze more venom into the wound. Scrape them out using your finger nails, the edge of a credit card, or with a dull knife.

If you are feeling ill, or if you have any reason to believe you may be allergic to bee stings, seek medical attention immediately.

6. What about other bees and wasps?

Bees are robust, hairy insects. Besides honey bees, some common bees in this area are carpenter bees and bumble bees. Female carpenter bee are completely black bees approximately one inch long. The males are similar in size, but are blonde-colored and are seen less often. Carpenter bees visit flowers to collect pollen and nectar in the same manner as honey bees, but do not live in large colonies. They are not aggressive at all, but the females can sting if provoked.

Bumble bees are also large bees, but are more brightly colored, with alternating bands of yellow and black. Bumble bees often nest in the ground, They live in groups, but do not have as many workers as a honey bee colony.

Wasps are more slender than bees with a relatively thin waist. Their brightly colored "skin" is smooth and somewhat shiny, often with sharply contrasting yellow and black patterns. Their hind legs are narrow and cylindrical. Wasps are predators, and feed on insects and spiders as well as sweets.