Baseball Season Begins With Bees at Royals-Angels in Tempe, Arizona

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A swarm of bees interrupted play at a Royals-Angels baseball game in Tempe last weekend, though the bees were luckily relaxed and removed without incident. Blue Sky Pest Control joined ABC 15 to explain to viewers the behavior of bees during a now thriving bee season—and what viewers should look out for.

Other news outlets got in on the action too, with Az Central 12 News and Fox 10 tapping into our expertise for some bee wisdom: After bees delay game, experts predict active spring Bee swarm disrupts Angels spring training game

This isn’t the first time that bees have interrupted a game here in Arizona, and they weren’t just your average honeybees that disrupted the game. They were Africanized honeybees, a very common and potentially dangerous bee in Arizona.

The Bees of Arizona

There are around 1,300 native species of bees in Arizona, with bee groups such as bumblebees, carpenter bees, squash bees and mining bees making their home here.

Bees are beneficial, as they pollinate and forage around flowers to provide us with vegetables, fruit, and nuts—not to forget honey and wax, of course. Without bees, life as we know it would be very different!

But what are Africanized bees and what are they doing here?

Also known as “killer bees” due to their aggressive nature, Africanized honey bees are found in California, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona. More than 95 percent of all bees in Arizona are presumed to be Africanized.

Africanized bees are more aggressive and easier to provoke than the European honeybee that beekeepers maintain. European honeybees were brought over to the colonies in order to produce honey in America, as the honey bee is not native to U.S. Although the Africanized bees do produce honey, they aren’t used by U.S. Beekeepers because of their aggressive nature.

Africanized bees are a hybrid, the resulting offspring from the existing European honeybees and newly arrived African honeybees in Brazil. In 1957, 26 Tanzanian queen bees were accidentally released in Brazil, and their offspring slowly made their way up to the U.S. They arrived in Arizona around 1993 and quickly took over the hives of the more docile European bees, nearly wiping them out.

The only way to really tell the difference between a “normal” bee and an Africanized one is by very carefully measuring it, as the Africanized bee is slightly smaller than the European bee—but this is a task you probably don’t want to perform on a live one!

The Real Danger

The sting of an Africanized bees is no more potent than a regular European honeybee’s sting; unless you’re allergic to bee stings, you won’t die from one sting alone.

The danger with these bees lies in their aggression. Africanized bees are very easy to provoke and will attack with more defender bees, so you will get stung much more often. They are at their most aggressive near their hives, as they will be protecting their young.

It is their persistence that can cause Africanized bee attacks to be fatal—they have been known to chase a perceived threat up to half a mile!

Common Misconceptions

  • You will not die from one sting by an Africanized bee (unless you’re allergic).
  • They are not massive bees (you might be thinking of the Chinese killer hornet).
  • A swarm of bees will not chase you down the street, like they do in movies.
  • They’re not looking to hurt people—they just want to defend themselves.

If you see an Africanized bee:

  • Do not provoke it, especially by swatting at it.
  • Do not panic! People are more likely to die from running away from a swarm by running into traffic than being killed by the bees themselves.
  • Do not try to remove a colony yourself.
  • If you are being chased, run in a straight line, as you might be able to outrun it.
  • Don’t bother hiding underwater. They will wait for you to resurface and then attack.
  • Avoid other people if you have been stung (or if you are near someone who has been stung). The sting releases a pheromone that marks you as a threat, which tells the other bees to attack you, too.
  • If you get stung more than 30 times, go to the emergency room!

The Common Hangouts of Africanized Bees

At this time of year, with the rain and the flowers in bloom, there are likely to be a lot of swarms around. New queens, along with a portion of the workers, will break off from the current hive and head off to find a new location for their own. When they stop to rest, which is usually in a big ball-like shape, they’re not aggressive. However, they will attack you if they feel threatened or provoked. It’s best to keep clear of swarms.

As their colonies are fairly small, they will hang around walls, holes, and hollow trees— basically anything small and easily accessible for them in which to set up shop. Once settled, they can stay there for years.

When to Call a Professional

As long as a hive of Africanized bees is located away from human dwellings, the pollinating activities of the bees are beneficial. But they can become a public health concern when they set up hives in residential yards, homes, and businesses.

If you see a hive too close for comfort, it’s best to call a professional that has the knowledge and correct equipment to use for its safe removal.