Swarms of bees are common in Arizona, particularly in May and June. Usually, a swarm of bees is not dangerous to human beings but you should treat them with respect and try not to disturb them. A colony of bees that move in is more of a problem.
What sort of bees are there in Arizona?
If you see a swarm of bees it will likely be one of two species: the European honey bee or the Africanized honey bee. They look very similar but they behave quite differently.
The European honey bee, also called the western honey bee, is common throughout North America. It is the bee we all recognize, often to be seen flying about visiting flowers with their little ‘basket’ of pollen on their hind legs. These are the bees that provide most of the honey we eat, the ones beekeepers keep in hives.
Honey bees are vitally important as they help pollinate flowering plants, including the crops farmers grow. Though they will sting, particularly if they believe the hive is being attacked and the queen in danger, they are not usually dangerous.
The Africanized honey bee looks almost the same as a European honey bee, just a little smaller, and makes smaller hives, but it is far more aggressive. They were accidentally released in the 1950s in South America and have been spreading northwards ever since. They are now very common in Arizona.
Although individually they are a little less venomous than the European honey bee, they attack in large numbers if their nest is disturbed. Anyone attacked by Africanized bees could suffer literally thousands of stings and people die every year. Only swift evasive action will prevent you from being stung – in other words, run… very fast!
Why do bees swarm?
Bees swarm when the colony needs to find another nesting site. The queen is accompanied by thousands of worker bees and a few drone bees. They will fly for a fairly brief time and then gather in a tight group on a tree, shrub, or other structure, rarely on the ground. Then some bees scout around the area looking for the best site for the colony to live. Swarms usually remain stationary for just a few hours or a day or two before moving to their new home.
What should I do if I spot a swarm of bees?
The best advice is to leave a swarm alone. The bees are not likely to become aggressive unless they are disturbed and will soon fly away of their own accord. If the swarm is in an unavoidably busy area, contact your local beekeepers’ association which will have the know-how to gather and relocate the swarm safely.
What steps should I take if I suspect a hive in or near my house?
It is a different matter if you think you have a hive close by your home, or even in it. You will soon know by seeing large numbers of bees or hearing the buzzing. You don’t want to share your living space with a hive of bees especially if they are Africanized bees. Although there are DIY methods available it is far better to get on to a reliable pest control company like AZEX Pest Solutions. Colonies usually consist of tens of thousands of bees and can be dangerous to anyone, not just those who are allergic to bee stings. Don’t take a chance, get professional help.