Aug. 18 2011 12:34 PM

In March, I received a call asking what I know about bees.

Being a Florida state-certified pest control operator and having a pest control business, I responded. Some folks had shaken the nest, and the bees were swarming and stinging and basically going nuts trying to get at the workers, who were running, ducking and swinging away at them.

Do not stand in one spot and try swatting them off, as they will continue with their attack.

I arrived at the site and found that there were landscape maintenance workers in the area who were using motorized equipment. We determined that the constant vibration of the motorized equipment is what set the bees off, and they attacked with a vengeance. The Africanized Honey Bee (AHB) can sense vibrations and sounds up to around 100 feet of their nest and begin their alert to attack, if need be, and will chase you for about a quarter mile.

So, there are not too many hiding places, but definitely do your best to protect your eyes and face. Since we all work outside, we are very susceptible to bee and yellow jacket stings, ant bites, poisonous plants, snakes, etc., so it’s important to be able to identify these dangers beforehand. Most bees we encounter are the regular bees that rarely sting; then we have the AHBs that attack with rage. The AHBs tend to swarm more frequently and go farther; they are more likely to migrate, and can move the entire colony. They guard their hive aggressively and attack in groups. The AHBs migrated to Texas around 1990, and they’re growing at a rapid pace and expanding nationally, especially in the South. There continues to be debate over the quantity of European honeybees that still exist and how many of their colonies have been wiped out by the AHB.

People typically ask how to identify a normal bee from an AHB and the answer is: you can’t. If they attack, you’ve identified the AHB! So you have to be very careful, as the AHBs are taking over the European honeybee hives.

Here’s some advice, if you or your personnel are ever stung:

Scrape, do not pull stingers from skin ASAP; pulling them out may cause additional venom to be injected. Wash sting area with soap and water. Apply an ice pack for a few minutes to relieve pain and swelling. Look for safe shelter. Seek medical treatment immediately if breathing is a problem. You should always carry first-aid kits in all vehicles or trailers. Buy a bee suit! Hey, the AHB hurts and I can help. Call me.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bill Phagan is president of Green Industry Consulting, Inc., and can be reached at 813-310-1108 or email to or his website at