PHOENIX (May 10, 2021) – Our warmer temperatures can trigger a greater risk of encountering Africanized bees, say experts from Banner Poison and Drug Information Center.
“Unfortunately, in Arizona, most of our bees are killer or Africanized and that can be more potentially dangerous,’’ said Meghan Spyres, toxicologist at Banner Poison and Drug Information Center.
“The difference between regular honeybees and these Africanized bees is mainly their behavior,’’ she said. “They tend to kind of move around in swarms, and so certainly if you see a big swarm of bees in Arizona, I would be concerned that they were Africanized honeybees.’’
It’s not the bees’ venom that can cause the most damage – it’s the number of potential stings, she said.
“The problem with these Africanized honeybees is that you'll be stung by multiple bees, hundreds of bees.’’
One sting can cause swelling and redness at the sting site; multiple stings can cause a person’s entire body to swell.
“Your blood pressure can drop low. You can end up pretty sick with end organ injury, like kidney injury, and these-- we call them massive honeybee envenomation-- can be fatal.’’
If a person receives only one or two stings, they should clean the sites and remove any stingers left behind by the bee, she said.
“One of the myths about bee stings is that the venom continues to be injected into your body after the sting has occurred. The bee does leave the stinger in your skin, but almost all of the venom has been delivered in the first second or two.
“It's not an emergency to remove it immediately-- but you do want to remove it,’’ said Spyres, who suggested using tweezers or a credit card to scrape off the stinger.
Many of us can be stung once or twice and not experience any additional problems but for as many as 8 percent of the population can experience a severe allergic reaction to insect stings in their lifetimes, according to the Journal of Asthma and Allergy.
People who know they are all allergic to bee stings or suspect that they may be, should carry an Epi-pen just in case.
To be avoid being stung, Spyres strongly recommends not swatting at any bees or disturbing a hive.
“If you just see a single bee around your house, in your yard, or if you're out hiking or somewhere, just leave it alone. Don't swat at it. Don't try to disturb its hive. It's probably not going to bother you.''
But if you see a hive or swarm, get indoors as soon as possible, Spyres added.
Sometimes people think if they go under water or something like that may solve the problem, but unfortunately the bees will kind of hover there and wait. And so, really, I would say just get indoors as quickly as possible.
About Banner Poison and Drug Information Center
The Banner Poison and Drug Information Center is a phone call away and can be reached at 1-800-222-1222. The center provides a free, 24-hour emergency telephone service for both residents and medical professionals of Maricopa County. Assistance is available in more than 150 languages. For more information, visit bannerhealth.com/poisoncenter.