by John Squires (Kettle Falls, WA, USA)

Africanized bee hive in Arizona

Africanized Feral Colony in Phoenix

In March 2010 we were visiting friends in Phoenix who had a very large 8 year old feral colony about 20 feet up in a big mulberry tree in their front yard. We suspected they were likely Africanized due to their hardiness and the size of the colony (about 3 feet wide by four feet long and pretty much covered with bees even at this time of year).

I have worked with Africanized bees before so we thought we would try to take them down and put them in a regular hive, requeen later and have a strong hive to get going in the Spring. That turned out to be a big mistake.

After renting some scaffolding to access and work on the bees we began our dangerous task. First the bees were smoked (warning…smoke does not quiet Africanized bees, it only makes them more and more irritated)and then the first comb cut loose. That started the attack. I immediately got about 10 stings right through the canvas bee gloves. They do not work with mean bees. Get the yellow plastic coated variety that are sting proof.

Wanting to get the bees, I smoked some more to quiet the bees. They took off in greater numbers. When I cut the second comb loose that was it. I was really getting attacked and got another ten or twenty stings through the gloves and they began getting into my veil. Whenever I would move they would find a wrinkle and get in. I was using borrowed equipment and it was not as good as my own and not adequate for the task at hand.

I had to make a quick exit down off the scaffolding and headed for the house some 50 yards away. The attack force followed me right into the living room where we had to kill all of them before we could take off our gloves.

I waited a little while and opened the door and was met with an angry hoard that came right inside the house and attacked. I got about six more stings before I could get gloves on again.

Nobody was safe anywhere near that house or yard area. The bees attacked everything and were very dangerous. The city had ordered us to get rid of the bees. We were trying to save them but were disappointed because we would now have to kill them.

The very best way to kill bees in a situation like this is with a simple water hose with a sprayer nozzle on the end. So we got the hose and went up the scaffolding after a while and sprayed the bees with the spray. This immediately stopped them from flying. Wet bees cannot fly. Spraying the attackers in the air got rid of them quickly and we were able to proceed spraying water between combs and cutting them down one by one until we had removed the whole colony.

All were drowned with the water and we were free from a very dangerous situation. It would have been a disaster if any children had walked down the street when we first started the process. We were also able to save all the honey for eating and the wax to melt down for use later.

Remember that poison sprays are not necessary and water works wonderfully to get rid of angry and dangerous bees. Unfortunately they cannot always be saved.

One Response to “Africanized Bees in Phoenix”

  • The Bee Guy

    That’s a sobering tale indeed. I think there’s a lot of people who say they’ve encountered Africanized bees when they’re really just regular aggressive European bees. The only sure way to tell is to have a DNA test…… however in reality when you encounter bees like yours there’s no question. When you see the ‘real thing’ you won’t bee in any doubt.

    The interesting thing is that it sounds as though they weren’t a big problem until you got quite near. I had a similar situation with a colony in an owl box. They were fine until someone climbed a tree about 15 feet away in preparation for removing them. The seemed to catch on straight away and went into attack mode.

    Well done for attempting this. I’m glad you got some honey out of it at least.

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