Warmer weather and increased outdoor activity boosts the possibility of people encountering bees in Southern Nevada. Bees tend to be most active from the spring to the fall, when they are colonizing and looking to set up hives, according to the Nevada Department of Agriculture. Most bees found in Southern Nevada are now considered Africanized honey bees due to cross breeding with the common garden honey bee known as the European honey bee. Both bees look the same and cannot be told apart without lab analysis. They have the same sting and venom. They both produce honey and wax, and they are good for the environment because they help pollinate plants. Africanized bees have been referred to as “killer bees” because they are known to defend their colonies more intensively and with less provocation than other bees. However, all bees can act in the same manner and should be handled with caution, regardless of type.

Foraging bees gathering food and water are not defensive and do not pose much of a threat as an entire colony of bees. If you see a swarm or colony, do not disturb it. Remain calm and quietly move away until the bees are out of sight. If you are with a pet when you encounter bees, keep your pet under control. Bees react to threats by swarming and stinging. If a hive is disturbed, it can result in someone being swarmed by hundreds of stinging bees. The best way to avoid a stinging incident is to avoid bee colonies and prevent them from establishing a hive in your yard. In the event that a colony is disturbed and bees start to attack, run away and seek indoor shelter. Notify emergency personnel by calling 911 if someone is being attacked by bees.

Most swarming activity happens in the spring in Southern Nevada but bee swarms can also occur in the summer and fall. A swarm of bees is generally not harmful unless disturbed. They are moving from place to place to colonize new hives. Swarming bees will appear as a large group of bees that look like a football or basketball hanging on the side of a building, on a fence, on tree branches or street signs. They sometimes can be found on the ground. If weather is good, they will usually fly away. When they do, all of the bees will leave together.

Bee hives can be dangerous and should be removed by a professional exterminator using appropriate safety gear and clothing, especially if found in a residential area or area frequented by the public. If a hive is found on private property, it is the responsibility of the property owner to hire a pest control company to exterminate the bees. For your safety, do not try to destroy a hive yourself. The Southern Nevada Pest Control Association keeps a list of licensed removal services and can be contacted at (702) 385-5853 or via its website at www.nevadapca.org. Bees on public property should be reported to the respective government agency for control.

Bee safety tips:

  • If you accidentally encounter bees, do not disturb them. Do not panic. Remain calm and quietly move away until bees are out of sight. If you are with a pet, keep it under control. Loud noises, including barking dogs, can irritate bees.
  • If bees attack, run away in a straight line and take shelter inside a car or building as soon as possible. (Africanized bees may chase you for up to a quarter of a mile.)
  • If under attack, use your arms and hands or shirt to shield your face and eyes from stings. (Bees will attack the eyes, nose and mouth.) Do not try to fight the bees. They have the advantage of numbers and gift of flight. Do not scream. Do not swat at bees or wave your arms. The more you flail your arms, the madder the bees will get.
  • Do not jump into water or thick brush, which do not provide adequate protection. If you jump into water, bees will attack you when you come up for air.
  • After an attack, bees will continue to be agitated by loud or humming noises such as barking dogs, lawnmowers, weed eaters and flashing lights.
  • If you are stung, remove the stinger by scraping it out and washing the area with soap and water and applying a cold pack to the sting site. When a bee stings, it leaves a stinger in the skin. This kills the bee so it can’t sting again but the venom remains.
  • Call 9-1-1 immediately if it appears someone is being attacked by bees or is in imminent danger of being attacked.
  • If someone is stung by a bee and becomes dizzy, nauseated or has difficulty breathing, an allergic reaction to the sting may be occurring. This is a serious medical emergency and 9-1-1 should be called for immediate medical treatment.
  • If you are stung more than 10 times, you should seek medical attention as a precaution. Reaction to bee venom takes several hours, which may cause you to feel sick later.

Preventing bee sting incidents

  • The best way to avoid a stinging incident is to avoid bee colonies and prevent them from establishing a hive in your yard. Listen for buzzing indicating a nest or swarm of bees.
  • If you find a swarm or colony, leave it alone and keep your family and pets away. Contact a professional pest control company to remove the bees.
  • Check around your house and yard every four to six months for any signs of bees taking up residence. Look for bees coming in and out of holes or cracks in walls, houses or sheds. Bees may build hives  inside concrete block walls or irrigation boxes, eaves, hollow trees and desert plants, pet shelters, bird houses, street light poles, utility boxes, drainage channels, and debris such as old tires, flower pots, lumber and formerly abandoned bee hives.
  • To help prevent bees from building a colony or hive in your house or yard, fill all cracks and crevices in walls with steel wool and caulk. Remove debris from your yard. Fill holes in the ground, and cover the hole in your water valve box.
  • Be alert for bees when participating in all outdoor activities and sports.
  • Teach children to be cautious and respectful of bees.
  • Bees perceive loud noises and vibrations as threatening. Barking dogs and power equipment such as lawn mowers and weed cutters can irritate bees.
  • Avoid wearing floral or citrus aftershaves or perfumes when hiking. Bees are sensitive to odors. Even the smell of newly cut grass has been shown to rile bees.
  • Wear light-colored clothing when you are outdoors. Dark colors can attract bees.
  • If you are sensitive to bee stings, check with your doctor about bee sting kits and proper procedures, or if you start having a reaction to stings such as difficulty breathing call 9-1-1.
  • Be aware of warning signs that bees may exhibit before a full-fledged attack. Preliminary defensive behaviors such as bees flying at your face or buzzing around over your head may tell you that you have come into their area and are too close to their colony.
  • When you are outdoors or in a wilderness area, be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for bees the way you would watch out for snakes and other natural dangers. But don’t panic at the sight of a few bees foraging in the flowers. Bees are generally very docile as they go about their work. Unless you do something to irritate or threaten bees, they generally will not bother you.
  • When working or hiking outdoors, consider carrying a small hand kerchief or mosquito net device that fits over the head and can be carried in a pocket. People who have been attacked say the worst part is having the bees sting your face and eyes. Any impairment to your vision makes escape more difficult. A blanket, coat, towel or similar item placed over your head can give you momentary relief as you run away as fast as possible.