“March, April and May are always our busy bee months. It’s the spring time and that’s when the bees become more active. That’s what it’s like across the whole county,” said Ron Knight, Queen Creek’s assistant fire chief. “ These bees are very active and they like to move around when they are building their hives, and just from looking, you can’t tell the divergence between a regular bee and an Africanized one. What we try to encourage our citizens to do is if you see a swarm is to leave them alone. They are pretty transient, so after a few hours or overnight, they tend to move on.”
Professional beekeepers from AAA Africanized Bee Removal Specialists Inc. remove a bee infestation from a house.
For example, on March 22, they received four bee-related calls. Those calls related to mobile swarms that had set up in trees, said Assistant Chief Knight.
“Last week, I was in a parking lot where we just tapped off the bees, and after a few hours they just left on their own,” he said. “ When we get called out, we typically see them landed on a big tree near a water source. They also like areas where they can be sheltered like barbecue grills or inside water meter boxes.”
Normally, the department only responds when swarms appear to be dangerous.
“ We at the fire department respond when they are actively stinging or attacking, but normally we just leave them alone and they move on,” Assistant Chief Knight said. “If they aren’t bothering anyone, just let them be, but if they are in a public area, like in a school, we need to take action. We can’t leave an opportunity for kids to get stung, but in a residential area, they tend to move on quickly.”
Aggressive swarms can be contained quickly, said Assistant Chief Knight.
“If it’s aggressive or a threat, the guys put on their fire fighting gear for protection, and they use the hoes and spray a foam. At them which kills the bees. That’s not our first choice, but if they are stinging, we need to take action.”
Assistant Chief Knight wants citizens to know that for hive removal, they should contact a professional beekeeper.
“ We only take that role if they are actively stinging or if they are going after people, dogs or livestock,” he said.
They have a similar policy for bee hives and transient swarms.
Assistant Chief Knight has some simple advice for citizens worried about bee attacks.
“If you’re attacked, try to cover your face and eyes and try to get into a building. Don’t jump into water. The bees will just hang in the air until you have to come up for air,” he said.
The Queen Creek Fire Department can be reached at 480-644-2400.
Rick Heicksen, general manager of AAA Africanized Bee Removal Specialists Inc., has noticed a huge increase in the number of bee removal requests his company receives.
“ There are two times of year that are really big and where things really speed up. We had a fairly wet winter, and we have all the flowers budding and all the citrus trees are flowering and secreting sugary substances. Everything is coming alive in the spring, and this is the time of year were everything propagates,” Mr. Heicksen said. “ With the warmer weather in February, all of these plants are flowering sooner, so we are seeing a lot more activity this year and earlier too.”
AAA Africanized Bee Removal Specialists Inc. operates throughout Arizona including Pinal and Maricopa counties.
The increasing bee population means Mr. Heicksen’s company is seeing a large increase in the need for qualified beekeepers.
“Every year, it seems we get a greater and greater call volume. In the winter, there is a little lull, but as soon as June and July approach, it ramps straight up again. That’s because the hives have been established. They have an abundant amount of cone to protect, so they become aggressive. But right now, they are foraging, splitting off from their parent colony and swarming like crazy,” he said. “ They have everything they need. Water and all the nonindigenous plant life flowering. They have an abundant resource, so it’s the beginning of the season for us.”
For example, Mr. Heicksen said his company received 130 bee-related calls on March 27, and their beekeepers have had to increase their hours to meet demand.
These calls mostly dealt with swarming bees looking for a place to establish a new colony, Mr. Heicksen said.
“ What we are experiencing right now is newly-arrived colonies. We are seeing many swarms along the side of houses,” he said. “Normally in the winter, the bees keep to themselves and feed off their honeycomb, but here, winter is like two months, so the bees are out being active again quickly.”
As time goes on, Mr. Heicksen said that he is seeing more and more Africanized honey bees.
“Almost every wild bee colony in this area is African killer bees, and everything they do is tenfold. They propagate quicker, they build honeycomb quicker, they do more foraging, they split off from their parent colony, so every year, it gets more and more,” he said. “Not only is everything they do tenfold, but they are also less susceptible to sickness and disease. They are just a stronger bee. They are a tropical bee, but we have everything they need here: Golf courses, pools, nonindigenous flowers and plant life.”
This is not the most dangerous season for bee attacks, Mr. Heicksen said.
“ We are always busy in the spring, and then we stay pretty consistent during the summer until the monsoon season when there is another regeneration. At that point, the colonies are already established, so that’s the time we start to lose people. We lose about three to four people every year from bee attacks.”
To avoid unnecessary death and injury, Mr. Heicksen recommends calling a bee removal specialist.
“If there is ever any doubt, call a bee removal professional. Many times those guys who do bees on the side only make it worse. Bees are all we do.”
AAA Africanized Bee Removal Specialists Inc. can be reached at 480-720-7000.
Maricopa County Vector Control have investigates potently hostile bee colonies.
“ When we get a complaint about a bee situation, we’ll go out and investigate. If we deem that the colony has a potential health risk, we’ll try and contact the responsible party, and require them to contract with a pest control company,” said Kirk Smith, Vector Control field director. “If there is no responsible party, we contract with a pest control company to take care of the bees.”
Swarms prefer to build hives in sheltered areas such as barbecue grills or inside water meter boxes.
Fire officials recommend leaving transient swarms alone unless they endanger the area.
Bee hives can go unnoticed inside walls and attics.