Africanized bees becoming bigger problem

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Problems with Africanized bees in Roosevelt County may be getting worse after a Portales woman was stung multiple times by bees in her back yard Tuesday.

That bee incident, as well as a few others this year, are reason enough for residents to be cautious, but preliminary data on test samples being sent in by a local pest control agent so far show that 42 percent of the samples are coming back positive as being the Africanized bee strain.

According to Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry, dispatch received a call shortly before noon on Tuesday requesting an ambulance for a woman in the 1200 block of North Avenue A who had received multiple bee stings.

Berry said the victim related that she had been pulling weeds near a storage building and the bees swarmed her and began to sting her. She was able to call out for help and neighbors heard her cries and came to her aid.

“When they (neighbors) got there she was pretty much covered in bees,” Berry said. “Neighbors were able to brush them off and get her away from them.”

Berry said he didn’t know how many stings the woman received but said she was stung multiple times on the head, face, neck and arms. She was transported to Roosevelt General Hospital and later released according to Berry.

“This is the first time we’ve had an incident where someone was stung in the city,” Berry said.

Berry said pest control specialist Bill Moyer of Southwestern Pest Control was called to help remove and destroy the bee colony. Berry said the hive, which has to be destroyed to get rid of the bees, stretched the entire length of the shed.

Africanized bees were first confirmed to be in Roosevelt County in July of 2005 after a colony inside the wall of a house in the Lingo area reacted to the noise of a lawn mower.

Moyer said after seeing the number of bee calls grow rapidly last year, he was able to arrange to have samples of bees he takes when he goes out to remove a colony tested by the USDA at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Ariz. to see if they are the Africanized strain of honey bee.

Moyer says he has gotten back results on 48 samples so far this year and still has 60 waiting to be tested including the one from the attack this week. Of the results he has received back 42 percent have been Africanized.

“I’m kinda surprised at how many colonies are Africanized,” Moyer said.

Moyer says while all the testing does is confirm whether or not an individual colony was Africanized, what he feels is needed is a testing program to evaluate how far north Africanized bees have spread in New Mexico.

Moyer is on the agenda to address Roosevelt County commissioners about the problem at their meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday. He said that he will present a slide show featuring the data he has collected. He plans to be joined at the meeting by State Entomologist Carol Sutherland of New Mexico State University.