The recent tragic death of a Valley Center man brings to light how careful you must be while working in areas that may harbor feral bee hives.
Bees are in important part of the environment. They pollinate flowers to produce many of the foods we eat. But as we all know, they also have stingers. This is a protection that has evolved to help them defend their nest, their food – the honey they produce - and their young.
So what do you do if you see bees around your property? That depends on whether you are dealing with European bees or Africanized bees - in a bee swarm or a nest.
Bees used to pollinate crops are European Honey Bees – These are generally found in those white boxes you see out in the fields. Some residents have them on their property for honey and pollination. European bees are generally more docile.
The wild bees around San Diego – generally the swarms we see and the wild hives - are Africanized bees. They are more sensitive to any type of disturbance such as noise or vibrations. They are more aggressive, and attack more readily in greater numbers. They will also chase their target for a longer distance.
Swarms are a flying group of bees trying to find a new home. When they land, they land in a cluster – anywhere from the size of a grapefruit to a football. They can land on a sidewalk, a car, the side of a house, a bush or a tree. Swarms are only temporary – usually just a couple of days. If they are in a place where they are not in your way, where kids play, or along a walkway at your house, it’s best to leave them alone. Eventually, they will fly off and find a new home to build their nest.
Hives, on the other hand, are a nest of bees, where they live and store their food – their honey – and raise their young. Hives can be found under the eaves of your house, in attics, in trees or shrubbery on your property, openings around pipes, or in your walls. They can also be found in utility boxes, chimneys, gutters and down spouts, as well as abandoned vehicles, compost piles, abandoned tires – anywhere they may be protected. You need to be more around these areas, especially since we have Africanized Bees in San Diego County.
The time of year is fast approaching when we like to begin yard work – clearing shrubbery, weed-whacking, mowing, and trimming overgrown plants. If you disturb a nest of bees while your are working around the yard, often the sound of equipment motors will drown out the sound of swarming bees. So before you start, take a walk around the area where you’re about to work. Inspect from the ground level to up in the trees, at least 16 feet up.
A bee swarm or nest will have a distinct buzzing sound. If you encounter a bee nest or swarm keep a safe distance. Let everyone in your household know about the potential danger. Keep children and pets away.
If the hive is on private property, contact a bee removal service, or a pest control service. It’s the property owner’s responsibility to take care of the bees. The County will only remove bee hives if county property – such as a park, or along a County roadway.
Don’t wait; hives are easier to remove sooner than later. As the hive gets bigger it can do more damage, especially if it’s in a part of your home. And as hives get more honey and young, the bees get more aggressive and more likely to attack if disturbed.
If bees are nesting in a utility box - a water meter, electric meter, or cable box, the utility company will take care of it.
Bees are useful, but they can also be a nuisance, and a danger. So don’t feel guilty about driving them off. They will find another area to build their nest – away from humans. San Diego County has no shortage of bees.
So as you go outdoors to enjoy the great spring weather, take a look around, listen for any swarming noises, and watch out for bees. If you see them, leave them alone, if they are building a nest on your property call an expert to remove them.
If you have questions about a nest or swarm of bees, contact the bee information hotline at 1-800-200- BEES.