In the last month, local residents saw a sudden increase in swarming bee activity, most likely due to increased temperatures after the recent onset of cold weather that hit Arizona, Arizona Pest Prevention President Steve Greenhalgh said.
“After we had the cold snap, we went to into those springtime temperatures,” he said. “When that occurs, we certainly do see evidence of a spike in bee activity.”
As we continue into warmer weather, bee activity is likely to increase as well, he said.
“In the last couple years, we’ve seen more bee activity and I think it has some to do with the rainfall and hot temperatures during the summer,” Greenhalgh said. “We’ve seen two of the busiest bee years.”
In Arizona, Africanized honey bees make up a large percentage of the bee population, Greenhalgh said.
“The folks that stay up on these terms of research would say the majority are all Africanized, which simply means that they can be more aggressive than a European honey bee – in all cases, we have to respect their areas,” he said. “When we go on a bee call, we always assume it’s an Africanized colony.”
During these times of increased bee activity, homeowners can take precautionary measures to prevent swarming bees—most of which can be done by simply cleaning up areas that border a home.
“Storage of different kinds of material can be an attraction to bees,” Greenhalgh said. “Spare tires, wood piles, anything with a tarp covering it, barbecue grills – those can all be an attraction to them, as well as shrubbery against the house.”
If residents do experience swarming bee activity near the home, it’s important to call professionals, Greenhalgh said.
“It’s important for the homeowner to know that when they see bee activity, not pollinating but swarming bee hives hanging from a tree, they should really stay clear of that,” he said. “They should not try to remedy it themselves with a water hose or a can of aerosol, whether its pesticide or something else.”
Greenhalgh said he takes a variety of safety measure when going on a bee call.
“We dress appropriately, wearing protective gear, and we actually use foam, much like fire departments use,” he said. “The foam is inside an aerosol can, almost like shaving cream; we simply foam the hive, closing up the areas they are going in and out of.”
If possible, Greenhalgh said he waits until the sun goes down to assess the situation.
“If we can, it’s always better to control a bee situation after dark,” he said. “Bees have a tendency to cluster and become more dormant, even in the summer.”
For those who hike or are involved in an outdoor activity, watch for swarming bees and try to stay away from the area, Greenhalgh said.
“Bees have a buzzing sound, so just keep your ears open,” he said. “If the bees start to approach, you simply need to get away from that area as quickly as possible.
“Without flailing your arms, just simply back off and take the same path you walked up, and alert others.”
Oftentimes, people hoping to escape an aggressive bee swarm will attempt to jump into a nearby body of water or swimming pool. This is not a good idea, Greenhalgh said, and can result in a dangerous situation.
“Bees will hover above the water and wait for you to come up for air,” he said.
In the case of being stung, residents should watch for signs of an allergic reaction. If someone is allergic, one bee sting can lead to a medical situation, Greenhalgh said.
“The reaction from a bee sting will occur fairly quickly,” he said. “For the majority of us, though, a bee sting, or two or three, is not going to have physical impact, besides being annoying.”