Rainy weather and warm temperatures
mean the early arousal of local
flowers and fauna, which may be one
of the reasons a swarm of bees
attacked a man and his wife at
Hanger Park near Knox and south
Rural roads in Tempe.
A Parks and Recreation Department
employee observed the incident and
According to Tempe Parks and
Recreation Deputy Manager Sam
Thompson, African Honey Bees,
the variety most commonly known as
killer bees, have been in Arizona
since 1993 but are rarely seen
except during this time of the year
when the pollination of flowers
causes them to migrate.
“This is the first incident that
we’ve heard about,” said Thompson.
“In the spring, we’ll get one or two
calls from sightings because the
flowers attract bees.”
The attack occurred while the couple
were walking their dog, evidently a
result of the bees having been
disturbed by machinery in the area.
The man, who was stung approximately
100 times, was hospitalized with
serious injuries; the woman’s
injuries were said to be minor.
While there is no official way to
monitor bees’ activities, Park and
Recreation employees watch for bee
hives while servicing the parks.
public information officer for the
city of Tempe, said the city also
depends on citizens to be vigilant
for bee hives or swarms that might
When a dangerous hive is found,
trained beekeepers remove the queen
bee to an environment that’s safer
for both bees and humans. Removing
the queen effectively dissipates the
bee swarm, say officials.
Mike Reichling, public information officer for the Tempe Fire Department, said that
unless provoked or aroused by
disturbances from heavy equipment
such as lawn mowers, African Honey
Bees, which have heavily cross-bred
with the more common European Honey
Bee, will usually stay to
“Cutting the grass with a lawnmower
will agitate them, or even someone
swatting at them, but walking by the
nest won’t—unless you’ve really
agitate them,” Reichling said.
In the case of the couple at Hanger
Park, Reichling said, it might have
been a case of being in the wrong
place at the wrong time.
Because African Honey Bees in
particular are highly mobile and
move from to place to place
depending on resources, it’s
difficult to monitor their movement.
Reichling recomends keeping an eye
out for bees coming in and out of
buildings or around flowers, and not
to disturb them. Also, African Honey
Bees tend to build their hives
closer to the ground than European
While bee attacks are rare, they can
be serious depending upon a person’s
reaction to bee stings.
Because Africanized bees will pursue
a target for up to half a mile,
experts suggest seeking shelter in a
vehicle or building and covering
your head; avoid wearing strong
perfumes or aftershaves that might
In the case that a nest is found,
both Reichling and Thompson suggest
calling a professional bee keeper in
the yellow pages to remove the bees.
However, bees play an important part
in nature by pollinating flowers and
plants. Learning more about bee
behavior can reduce the risk of
getting attacked and allow the bees
to go about their important
“Bees are a part of nature and the
environment, and if we leave them
alone, they’ll leave us alone. Be
aware that they are there and you do
your thing and they’ll do their
thing,” Reichland said.