Advice: Don’t get a bee in your bonnet

Jim Lee: Local Columnist

Have the evil killer bees arrived at last in Roosevelt County? Is it time to panic? Shall we call in the National Guard?

First of all, they are not “killer” bees. The recent attack near Causey and Lingo was from Africanized honey bees, not “killer” bees. Second, it is never time to panic, unless you see me with my 9-pound sledge hammer and a repair manual. Third, why try to get the National Guard on the scene when they’re all in Iraq? Besides, with a dab of cautious common sense, we can live with these bees without a lot of trouble.

The Africanized honey bees probably did not just get here. Floyd McAlister of the county extension office told me they’ve most likely been in Roosevelt County a couple of years or so. If that incident in the Causey/Lingo area was the first sting attack, it took those little meanies a while to get around to it.

Portales Police Chief Jeff Gill said authorities have bought some protective gear for dealing with bees, and of course our local government has emergency first-response professionals. So we have better odds than the bees.
Authorities know about the situation, and they’re ready to act.

As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Good “bee sense” applies to the Africanized honey bee just like it does to our common honey bee (European honey bee) introduced to America by colonists hundreds of years ago.

They are so similar it takes a scientist to determine which species is European and which is Africanized. There are a few differences, though .

The venom is the same, but the Africanized bee stings in greater numbers (hence more venom). Also, it is more aggressive and chases farther. If attacked, run to the nearest shelter, such as a building or car, and shut the door. If a few bees follow inside, remember each can sting only once (better a few stings than a swarm, right?).

The bees aren’t interested in killing anybody. They are wild animals going after food and water — just trying to survive and reproduce. But they will defend themselves when they decide it’s necessary. Loud noises, such as lawnmowers, can stir them up. So can certain scents and colors.

Common sense tells us to avoid bees that seem especially active or holed up in buildings of any size. If they are in the walls of a building, call a professional exterminator because the bees can damage the building and damage the people around it. Leave the area at once and call in the experts.

Wearing light-colored clothing and avoiding scents such as perfumes, colognes, deodorants, fabric softeners, etc., while not 100 percent effective all the time, will help minimize bee interest.

According to a report from the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service, a victim should seek emergency medical treatment if stung on the face or neck, or if he/she feels disoriented, sweaty, itchy, or faint, or notices blotchy marks on the skin.

The Africanized bee does not present a big threat. It may even be a blessing with the current shortage of bees to help farmers. Don’t take a bee to the experts because they already know they’re here and don’t need to waste time and money identifying it.

Questions? Go to the Web site
and search for Africanized honey bees. If it’s something urgent, call the county extension office at 356-4417. Call 911 in an emergency.

The bees shouldn’t cause fear, but they should be respected. So use some common sense and … ready? … don’t get a bee in your bonnet.