What would you do if you unexpectedly encountered a swarm of bees? Most people would not know what to do in such a situation. Did you know that most bee attacks can be avoided by having prior information about bees’ behavior? Yes, it is true!
Are Bees Aggressive?
Bees are some of the most peaceful creatures and they won`t sting you without reason. The main aim of a bee’s sting is to defend its beehive. Bees have no reason to sting unless they feel threatened. Bees will only sting when provoked. Therefore, bees are not aggressive unless they perceive danger to their hive or themselves.
In this article, you are going to understand more about the behavior of bees. You will understand the reason why bees sting people and how to avoid a bee attack.
Understanding Bees’ Aggressive Behavior
Honey bees will not attack unless it is to defend their colony. They can also express aggression outside their nest if they are bothered. However, certain things seem to be at the top of the list in stimulating bees, causing them to become aggressive.
The most common sources of aggression stimulus for bees are vibrations, hair, dark colors. Carbon dioxide and alarm pheromone seem to trigger them the most, for these are interpreted as a sure sign of an attacker that must be warded off.
It makes sense because most common predators of bees often have dark-colored hair on their body in the form of fur and exhale carbon dioxide. To make the attack most effective, bees often aim for the head, a sensitive area for any predator.
Before a bee stings, it takes a defensive position. The sting is protruded, and this releases the alarm pheromone that attracts other bees. The bee then tries to locate the invader and stands ready to attack it. Upon determination of imminent danger to itself or the rest of the colony, the bee’s final phase of aggression is to launch an attack. It involves making high pitched buzzing sounds and bodily thrusts against the invader.
It is uncommon for honeybees to pursue the predator beyond a few meters. However, some bees (Africanized) can pursue several hundred meters.
If the bee stings, it will disembowel itself while trying to fly away because the sting is left inside the victim. The sting releases venom and alarm pheromones to draw more bees. In the meantime, the initial attacking bee flies around the victim’s head to distract it and threatens a possible additional sting, although it is not possible at that point for a bee can only have one single sting.
Common Reasons for Bee Aggression
A combination of factors can be responsible for why bees become aggressive. Each case may be different, so it is important to know which reason applies in each situation. Some of the reasons include;
- A recent attack on a beehive by skunks and other intruders may cause bees to become aggressive and angry.
- Bees in a colony established long ago tend to be more aggressive compared to a new colony. The reason is that the more aged the colony, the more the honey reserves, and the bees will be more protective of their honey. However, handling the colony with care will disarm them from their aggressiveness. The person working with these kinds of colonies should be gentle.
- When harvesting, failure to use a smoker or using it incorrectly can also cause the bees to become aggressive.
How to Safeguard Yourself Against Bee Attacks
You are probably wondering if bees are not aggressive as I may have believed, how come people get stung? That is a good question. To give you preparedness if you ever have to deal with bees, here is information on what to do to avoid bee stings and how to help someone who has been stung. Read on!
According to ancient wisdom, “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.” Simply put, this means that having prior information about bees and how to stay safe will help you avoid being stung.
Here are tips to remember on how you can safeguard yourself against a bee attack;
- Always check around your home area often (probably every few months) to ensure that no bees have made their home near you.
- Avoid wearing dark-colored clothing when you are outside. Bees tend to be attracted to dark colors. It is advisable to wear bright colored clothes. You should also avoid wearing red, which is seen as black by bees, according to entomologists.
- Know your sensitivity to bee stings. Check beforehand with your doctor and have sting kits on standby. Be informed on the procedure to follow in case of a bee sting to you or someone else.
- Be cautious whenever you go into the wilderness. Be alert of your surrounding and watch out for hives.
- If it is unavoidable for you to work outside or go hiking, always ensure you have a handkerchief or a mosquito net small enough to fit over your head. One that fits in your pocket or backpack.
The Best Course of Action When You Encounter A Swarm of Bees To avoid an Attack
Although knowledge is important, it is useless unless applied. You may do everything within your power to avoid crossing bees but then still find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. What should you do when you find out that where you are, there is a hive swarming with bees?
If you discover there are bees in your immediate environment, either your home or where you are hiking, you must avoid being stung. Here are great tips that will ensure you remain safe;
- If you hear buzzing sounds near your home, that may be an indication that bees have set up their hive near you. Keep a safe distance from the hive and call the licensed pest control authorities as soon as possible to take deal with the bees.
- Do not approach or interfere with a hive. Keep the rest of your family members and also pets away from it.
- Do not attempt to remove the bees by yourself. That is the worst thing you can do. Such a decision may be fatal. Let the professionals handle the situation.
- Avoid making noises and sudden movements near a hive. Bees hate loud noises and interpret sudden movements as an attack. Therefore, you should try your best to stay calm and be as quiet as possible.
Above all, it is wise to immediately move away from an area when you discover a beehive present.
What to Do if Bees Attack You
Even after taking all the precautions, one may still be unfortunate enough to be attacked by bees. When bees decide to attack, what should you do?
Bee stings are quite dangerous. Especially if a person is highly sensitive to them, it can even lead to death. Therefore, in the case of a bee attack, it is critical to know what to do.
Let us look at some recommended guidelines for handling a bee attack.
- When a nest is accidentally disturbed, and the bees attack, it is wise to try and escape from the vicinity of the angered swarm of bees. It is advised that you should run in a straight line towards a sheltered place. The shelter could either be a car or a building. Or run until the bees stop chasing you.
- Another thing you should not do when facing a bee attack is to fight them. Do not swat the bees or wave your hands around. According to insect behaviorists from the Tucson Biological Institute, swatting is a natural human reaction. However, it can turn a coincidental interaction with bees into an attack; instead of waving, use your arms to shield your face. If possible, try to use your clothing to safeguard your face, mostly your eyes.
- You should not make the mistake of jumping into the water. The bees will linger around and attack you when you come out of the water for a breath.
- Also, you should never scream, even if you are scared. The reason against screaming is that bees tend to feel agitated by loud noises and flashy lights after an attack. Therefore, screaming will worsen the attack. Also, try not to run noisy machinery such as lawnmowers near a hive where bees were recently aggressive.
- In case you are stung, you should try to remove the stinger left behind by the bee in your skin. You can do this by either washing the area with soap and water then placing ice on the affected area. The good thing is that a bee cannot attack you twice.
- If you start feeling dizzy, have problematic breathing, or experiencing nausea, it is a sign that you or the person stung is having an allergic reaction to the bee sting. In which case, you should immediately ask for emergency medical treatment.
- If you have been stung many times, do make sure to seek treatment. A bee sting has venom whose effects may not be felt immediately but can cause you to feel sick hours later if no treatment is administered.
Generally, bees are not harmful. They do not express aggression unless disturbed. According to Carl Olson, an entomologist from the University of Arizona, honey bees would first warn people before attacking.
Therefore, when bees swarm around you, please take it as a warning, and leave immediately. Do not try to swat them. When in an attack, apply the tips you have learned today, and you will be safe.