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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Bee Stings / Safety
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1 - Stung by a bee
2 - Attacked by a group of honey bees
3 - Avoiding a stinging incident
4 - Bee proofing your property
5 - Outdoor recreation safety tips
6 - Protecting pets and livestock
7 - Bees at your swimming pool
8 - Why do bees sting?
Avoiding a stinging incident

 

Things to remember:

Stay away from honey bee colonies. There are estimated to be about 250,000 wild honey bee colonies in Arizona. Because honey bees nest in such a wide variety of locations, be alert for groups of flying bees entering or leaving an entrance or opening. Listen for buzzing sounds. Be especially alert when climbing, because honey bees often nest under rocks or within crevices within rocks. Don't put your hands where you can't see them.

If you find a colony of bees, leave them alone and keep others away. Do not shoot, throw rocks at, try to burn or otherwise disturb the bees. If the colony is near a trail or near areas frequently used by humans, notify your local office of the Parks Department, Forest Service, Game and Fish Department, even if the bees appear to be docile. Honey bee colonies vary in behavior over time, especially with changes in age and season. Small colonies are less likely to be defensive than large colonies, so you may pass the same colony for weeks, and then one day provoke them unexpectedly.

Wear appropriate clothing. When hiking in the wilderness, wear light-colored clothing, including socks. Avoid wearing leather clothing. When they defend their nests, Honey bees target objects that resemble their natural predators (such as bears and skunks), so they tend to go after dark, leathery or furry objects. Keep in mind that bees see the color red as black, so fluorescent orange is a better clothing choice when hunting.

Avoid wearing scents of any sort when hiking or working outside. Africanized honey bees communicate to one another using scents and tend to be quite sensitive to odors. Avoid strongly scented shampoo, soaps, perfumes, heavily scented gum, etc. If riding, avoid using fly control products on your horse with a "lemony" or citrus odor. Such scents are also known to provoke or attract honey bees.

Be particularly careful when using any machinery that produces sound vibrations or loud noises. Bees are alarmed by the vibration and/or loud noises produced by equipment such as chain saws, weed eaters, lawn mowers, tractors or electric generators. Honey bees may also be disturbed by strong smells, such as the odor of freshly cut grass. Again, check your environment before you begin operating noisy equipment.

Pet safety. When hiking it is best to keep your dog on a leash or under close control. A large animal bounding through the brush is likely to disturb a colony and be attacked. When the animal returns to its master, it will bring the attacking bees with it. At home, be careful not to tie or pen animals near honey bee hives. The animals receive numerous stings because they can't escape the bees. If your animals or pets are being stung, try to release them without endangering yourself.

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Last Modified: 4/26/2012
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