Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

AHB - Pet & Livestock Safety


Africanized honey bees (sometimes called "killer bees") have arrived in Utah. Colonies of Africanized honey bees defend their nests with more vigor and in greater numbers than our common European honey bee. When bees defend their colonies, they target furry and dark-colored objects that resemble their natural enemies: bears and skunks. Therefore your pets are likely to be stung when bees are disturbed. Animals that are penned or tied up near honey bee nests or hives are at higher risk.

Do's and Don'ts

Do look for bee colonies around your property regularly. Honey bees nest in a wide variety of sites. They may nest in animal burrows in the ground, water meter boxes, or in overturned flower pots. Sometimes honey bees may nest in the open in trees or shrubs. Look for active bees and listen for a buzzing or humming sound in the ground, in trees and shrubs, or in block walls. If you find a colony of bees, call the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, local authorities, a pest control company, or an experienced beekeeper.

Do not pen, tie or tether animals near known bee hives or nests. Keep animals away from apiaries, and bee nests. Bees may seem docile at first, but don't take chances.

Do not disturb or tease bees EVER, and do not try to remove bees yourself. Do not shoot at, throw rocks at, or pour gasoline on bee nests, this will only arouse the bees. Also, do not attempt to control them with aerosol pesticides.

Do keep pets and children indoors when using weed eaters, hedge clippers, tractors, power mowers, chain saws, etc. Honey bees are sensitive to unusual odors, such as cut grass, and to loud vibrations. Attacks frequently occur when a person is mowing the lawn or pruning shrubs and trees, and inadvertently strikes a bee or wasp nest.

Do keep dogs under control when hiking. A dog bounding through the brush is more likely to disturb bees than one following quietly at your heels.

Do stay alert when horse-back riding through brush or under low hanging branches, where bees might nest.

What to do if your animal is stung:

Try to get the animal away from the bees without endangering yourself.  Call your dog inside your house or car, or release the animal if it will not harm the animal or others nearby. Do not attempt to approach a person or an animal being stung without some sort of protection (such as a beekeeper's suit or inside a car), because the bees are likely to attack you as well. If you approach an animal that is being stung, remember that an injured animal may bite or attack unexpectedly. If you release penned livestock, be aware that an unrestrained animal may run into the road and be hit by a car, or may run away. And if the animal runs to you with aroused bees following, it, you are likely to be stung, too.

If possible, douse the animal with a shower of soapy water, which will kill any bees clinging to it. A mixture of common dish detergent and water knocks bees down and drowns them.

Covering the animal with a heavy blanket may also discourage the bees.

Once the animal is away from bees, look for stingers. When a honey bee stings, it loses its venom sack and stinger. This means the honey bee dies after it stings, but also that the stinger may continue to inject venom for up to a minute or until the stinger is removed. If you can see stingers on the animal, remove them by scraping them out with a credit card, knife or fingernail. Do not pull them out with tweezers or fingers, because you will squeeze more venom into the animal.

If an animal has sustained numerous stings you should consult your veterinarian. The number of stings an animal can survive depends on its body weight, the amount of venom it received, and whether or not it is allergic to bee venom. As with humans, even one sting may be dangerous if the animal is allergic.