Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

AHB - How to Avoid a Stinging Attack

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., State Entomologist
(801) 538-7184

How Can I Avoid a Stinging Attack?

Around the home, the best way to avoid an encounter with AHBs is to be sure your house and yard provide as few attractive nesting sites as possible. Periodically inspect your property for possible nesting sites. Holes larger than 1/8" on the outside of houses or outbuildings should be plugged with steel wool and caulked shut. Vent screens should be checked and repaired if necessary. In the yard, keep trees and shrubs trimmed, and dispose of old tires, boxes, or trash piles that AHBs may see as attractive nesting sites.

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 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!

What If I Am Attacked?

Experts agree that the best method of escaping a bee attack is to cover your head and run for shelter.

Seek shelter in a car or other enclosed place. Some bees may enter with you, but it is better than facing the entire swarm!

Do not jump into a swimming pool or other water, as the bees will wait until you come up for air, and attack again.

Do not swat at the bees - the odor of a crushed bee will aggravate the remaining bees even further.

If it is your pet or livestock that is being attacked, try to get the animal away from the bees without putting yourself in danger.

A solution of 1/2 cup soap per gallon of water will kill any bees that are clinging to the animal, if you are able to safely approach.

Be aware that, when agitated, bees will attack anything that resembles their natural enemies - bears and skunks. This includes anything dark-colored or furry, which puts pets and livestock at particular risk.

If you are stung, the best way to remove the stinger is by scraping it out with a credit card or similar object. Trying to pull it out with fingers or tweezers forces any remaining venom into the victim's body and should be avoided.

Where do they build hives?

The Africanized Honey Bee is not as fussy about where it nests as the European Honey Bee, but they do like to nest near a source of water.

Some of the places they have been known to nest include:

  • Trees and Shrubs
  • Wood Piles or Trash Piles
  • Flower Pots
  • Old Tires
  • Ground Holes
  • Chimneys
  • Storage Sheds
  • Wall Cavities
  • Attics and Crawl Spaces
  • Roof Overlaps and Building Eaves
  • Underground Utilities
  • Water Meters and Sprinkler Control Boxes
  • Old Mine Shafts or Rock Crevices
  • Evaporative Coolers


What Should I Know About AHBs?

Africanized Honey Bees are much more prone to attack in defense of their colony than European Honey Bees. Vibration, noise, or motion within 50 feet of the nest can provoke an attack. They dislike the sounds that are made by such tools as lawn mowers, leaf blowers, or hedge trimmers. Odors can also aggravate them, including freshly-cut grass or citrus.

Africanized Honey Bees will pursue people or animals as far as one-quarter mile, and will remain agitated for up to eight hours after they are disturbed.

Since the discovery of African bee in Mesquite, Nevada in November of 1999, the UDAF has been working with Washington County public safety agencies regarding African bee response. We will redouble or efforts to offer training to the health department, police and fire, school districts and any group that seek assistance.

We continue to work with Utah beekeepers to identify hives that become aggressive. We wish to remind residents that the honey bee population in Utah is very important to agriculture and wildlife, and that not all bees are African bees.

The bee is aggressive, only when defending its hive. It does not initiate random attacks, instead, it perceives humans or animals as threats to its hive and acts to defend it.

The best way to avoid an attack is to be aware of where bees tend to form hives, look for bees and if you see bees, move in the opposite direction.

More details on how to identify the African bee and what to do if you encounter them is available here.

Where did Africanized Honey Bees come from?

They were introduced into Brazil in 1956, and have slowly spread northward since then. They have been in the United States since 1990, when they were detected in Hidalgo, Texas. They are now found in parts of California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas, and as close to Utah as Mesquite, Nevada.