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UPDATED: Bees that attacked horses are Africanized, official says

Posted: July 27, 2011 3:20 p.m.
Updated: July 27, 2011 3:20 p.m.
 

The swarm of bees that attacked two horses and at least two people in Sand Canyon this week were probably Africanized honey bees, a county official said Wednesday.


“Ninety percent of wild bees in Los Angeles County are Africanized bees,” said Ariel Verayo, an inspector in charge of the apiary and Africanized honey bee program for the Los Angeles County Department of Agriculture and Weights and Measures.


Africanized honey bees are more aggressive than other types of bees, Verayo said. They will attack anything they perceive as a threat to their hive.


Africanized bees grow more aggressive as their hive gets bigger and accumulates more honey, Verayo said. The hive involved in the attack Monday was estimated to contain thousands of bees and 100 to 200 pounds of honey.


Horse owner Gilbert Chavez and a neighbor who rushed to help him were stung multiple times as a swarm of bees attacked two of Chavez’s horses that were tied to a fence awaiting grooming.


One of the horses went into shock, and emergency medical technicians helped Chavez pull hundreds of stingers out of the animal. Fire Department personnel summoned to the scene subdued the hive, located in an oak tree, with foam fire retardant.


Africanized bees produce most of their honey during the summer, Verayo said.


The high percentage of Africanized bees in L.A. County is nothing new, according to Ken Pellman, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture and Weights and Measures.


Africanized bees were established when a scientist working in Brazil in the 1950s was crossbreeding bees from Africa with more docile European bees, Pellman said. Some of the crossbred bees escaped.


Initially called “killer bees,” the population of bees gradually moved northward and were tracked for a time due to their aggressive nature. They gradually inbred with native bee populations. They arrived in Los Angeles County around 1999, Pellman said.


County officials do not encourage people to deal with the bees themselves or to try to eliminate a hive. An overall decline in the bee population poses a danger to some agricultural interests.


“Eighty percent of our crops are pollinated by bees,” Pellman said. “There’s a lot of concern about the decline in population.”


He said most pest-control companies will try to relocate a beehive to an apiary.


Anyone who hears a loud buzzing sound coming from a hive should run into a house or vehicle as fast as possible, he said.
“And don’t try to jump into water,” Pellman said. “That only works in cartoons.”

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