County’s first responders get bee training

Thomas Garcia

Roosevelt County law enforcement and emergency personnel have a new worry when responding to area homes — Africanized honey bees.

Dealing with the aggressive and potentially deadly insects, which have been reported in the area since 2005, was the subject of a first responders seminar Thursday at Jake Lopez Community Center.

Fire department and EMS personnel would typically be the first responders during a bee attack or could encounter them in other emergency calls, according to officials.

“The main thing about Africanized bees is they are unpredictable,” said Tom Lewis Hightower, owner of Southwest Pest Control.
He said the bees will attack the face first, concentrating on the eyes, mouth and nose.

“The most important thing to remember if you’re attacked is to run,” Hightower said. “One of our greatest fears is a hive being close to a school. When a child is stung they will sometimes freeze up and stay still, that is the worst idea. They need to get out of there as quick as possible.”

The bees can not be distinguished from the less aggressive European honey bee until they are agitated.

“If a hive is in a residential area it is best not to aggravate the bees and alert the neighbors to the presence of the bees,” Hightower said. “If the bees are agitated they will defend there hive and attack anything that moves within a half a mile radius.”

Portales Fire Department Battalion Chief Lance Hill said they have not encountered any bees to date while making rescue attempts, but it is beneficial having the information about how to handle that kind of situation, Hill said.

“The information was helpful and refreshed our knowledge about what to do when we encounter a hive,” Hill said. “We know that if we encounter a hive, we will leave it alone conduct our rescue and leave it for professionals to deal with.”

The number of Africanized honey bees has increased in New Mexico since they were first discovered in 1993 in Hidalgo County. Since then they have been found in 12 counties in New Mexico according to an press release from New Mexico State University.

“The bees are sharing our environment they are moving and are setting up to stay,” Hightower said.