Africanized Honey Bees and the Press

Example 1

The following is an excerpt from an actual National Enquirer article written before Africanized honey bees were first found in Texas in 1992.

Enraged Swarm Stings One to Death

A swarm of killer bees viciously stung a man to death and fiercely attacked his two friends for five terrifying hours because one of the men had squashed a bee.

The ferocious insects the same kind expected to reach America next year were so determined to kill that they even attacked like crazed kamikazes while the men were hiding underwater!

The horrifying onslaught began when Jeff Riley and his friends Raul Alvarez and Gary Houser were fishing on a 16-foot boat in Panama and Jeff saw a bee fly into Raul's hair.

"I crushed the insect in a towel," said Jeff. "Little did I realize such a simple act would cause Gary's death and almost cost my life as well as Raul's."

Soon, the men heard buzzing from a nearby island. It grew louder and louder and sounded like a faraway plane. "I looked up to see a long black cloud made up of thousands of insects," said Jeff.

"They're bees and they're after us!" Gary shouted.

"In less than a minute, the insects swooped down and attacked us again and again.

"'Into the water quick!' I yelled as I felt the first of hundreds of tiny punctures on my face, hands and shoulders. When I shouted, the bees flew into my mouth and nose . . ."

Example 2

The following is a newspaper column by George Brookbank appearing

Feb. 22, 1994 in the Tucson Citizen.

Bees a normal part of springtime

At the Extension Garden Center there's been a recent flurry of questions about bees, and some of them seem to have been inspired by sensational reporting.

It's too bad that a news story can't be made without a dash of violence and disaster. What has become of happy endings?

Any day now, we shall be experiencing the normal springtime warming season and this year, with the help of lurid journalism, the swarms are expected to be larger and more numerous than ever before. You should take things calmly and practice common sense.

If you see a swarm of honey bees swirling in the air and headed your way, you need to realize that they are not coming after you. They are looking for a new home, having been evicted from their crowded place. They will settle and hang in a black cluster, and a few bees will fly gently around. They will go away after a day or two, and during this time it is best to leave them alone.

Don't squirt them with any chemical, or even water from the garden hose. This will aggravate them and they might go for you. If they are Africanized honey bees, they probably will go for you. The sensible thing to do is simply keep away from them.

However, if you are extra nervous or if the swarm is too close to your front door for comfort, you should call the Arizona Department of Agriculture. [Note: As of 1996, this is no longer true. Instead, follow the advice in the last sentence of this paragraph.] It will give you the name of an experienced beekeeper who will take care of the problem. Do not try to remove the swarm yourself, or throw rocks at it, or pour gasoline on it, or try to smoke it out, or squirt water on it. If the line to the Department of Agriculture is busy, find a number in the Yellow Pages under "B" of course and see whether someone will come collect the swarm.

A few years ago, amateur beekeepers would be delighted to gather a free swarm I was myself but these days are different. Swarms may be a bit more nervous and therefore defensive if they are mishandled. You can't stop bees from flying into your yard and, of course, they will. A person called to ask us what laws could be used to prevent someone's bees from flying out of their hives in a field nearby and over his garden wall.

Bees will come for water, and they will come for nectar and pollen on flowers. There are all kinds of flowers at different times of the year almost a continuous production from trees and shrubs, bedding plants and weeds. It's not feasible to get rid of them, yet that was one of the nervous questions. "What shall I spray my citrus trees with to stop them from flowering?"

Don't worry about bees working your flowers. Think of the saying about bees that use the words "beeline" and "busy." Bees stay busy on the tree and you can safely get quite close to them without any risk. They are too busy to bother you. When a bee has gathered enough she will take the shortest route home using a beeline. Even if you are in her way and she bangs into you, she hasn't the time to stop and sting you. She has got to get home as quickly as possible. However, if you have just come out of the house smelling like a rose from aftershave, perfume, hair spray and so on, you may be mistaken for something interesting, and bees might investigate you.

Your reaction is likely to be the wrong one, such as flailing your arms and jumping around. Such actions alarm bees and they become more active as them you do, and then they do, and then you do, and so on. Be calm, go back to the house.

Bees need water and they'll get it from a dripping faucet, from the swimming pool, from a fountain, even at the hummingbird feeder, from drip irrigation emitters and so on. Again, they will b be too busy to attack you, but don't go fussing around where they are leave them be.

If you have a faucet far from well-trafficked areas of your yard, let it drip in order to entice bees away from where you spend your time. Bees have a habit of going back to what they think is a good place in fact they tell their friends about it.

Then there was the letter from the Postal Service: "There's a plant near the mailbox with flowers on it, and there are bees on the flowers, and the mailperson is nervous. Stop it flowering or remove it!"

Well, that's the government speaking so you'd better remove the plant it was rosemary stay out of trouble. It's probably good landscaping practice.

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