By Marc Schoder
Africanized honey bees have been identified in Roosevelt County, according to a release from the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.
“The colony was discovered in the wall of a house in the Causey-Lingo area,” said Bill Moyer, a local beekeeper.
The bees attacked residents of the home, Moyer said, in response to the sound of a lawn mower. The bees, Moyer said, judged the sound of the mower as an attack on the colony.
One person in the home was sent to the hospital with anaphylactic shock, while another just suffered stinging. Moyer declined to identify the residents of the home.
The colony is the only known colony of Africanized bees in Roosevelt County. Roosevelt is the 12th county in New Mexico to confirm presence of the bees.
African honey bees are scientifically recognized as being a subspecies of the more popular European honey bee. The bees are so similar in appearance that their differences can only be distinguished in a lab.
The bees are similar in biological terms as well according to Moyer, who has been a beekeeper in Portales for about three years.
“Both Africanized honey bees and European honey bees have the same amount of venom in them,” Moyer said. The difference between the varieties, Moyer said, is that the Africanized bees are more aggressive in protecting either their colony or their offspring.
Moyer suggests not taking direct action on any colony of bees.
“The best thing that any person can do is leave them alone and contact the extension office (356-4417),” Moyer said. “The worst thing a person can do is spray a colony with bug spray (because the bees regard that as an attack).”
Moyer said as a defense mechanism the bees will butt or push against a person that is seen as a threat to the colony.
“These bees are not killers (by choice),” Moyer said. “They defend their colonies aggressively.”
Moyer said everyone should be concerned about bees and more observant of the area around them.
“I have removed bees from a city water meter box as well as a dirt pile,” Moyer said.
Carol Sutherland, a New Mexico State University Extension entomologist and a state entomologist for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, echoed Moyers’ instructions.
“When you come across them, it is a good time to get a professional pest control operator out to remove them,” Sutherland said. “I do not recommend anyone trying to remove the colonies themselves.
“Like Mom said when you were younger, you need to leave them alone.”
Sutherland said more bee-related incidents may arise in Roosevelt County in the coming months.
“People need to be a lot more alert and observant of bees,” Sutherland said.
A report by Sutherland said that Africanized honey bees first arrived in the United States in 1990.
The bees were first introduced into Brazil in the 1950s to breed a honey bee that was a better pollinator and honey producer for the tropical area, but the Africanized bees escaped from a breeding facility there. Since then, the bees have become established in most of South America, according to Sutherland’s report.