Taking precautions before bees turn deadly

Aggressive Africanized bees

The height of bee swarming season comes in March and April, and that is when bees are actively searching for a home.

By now, Brownsville Vector Control Officer Fred Barnes said hives are lurking in backyards and within the walls of homes.

To add insult to injury, most of the bees found in the Rio Grande Valley are the aggressive Africanized bees that sting when disturbed.

"Commonly they go for your face, which is your eyes and mouth, Barnes said. A lot of people actually pass away because they get stung inside of their mouth."

This week a 54-year-old man mowing a wooded area in San Benito was stung roughly 300 times, when the vibrations of a riding lawnmower disturbed a hive on a tree.

If the person is allergic to bees, Barnes said, an attack can turn deadly in just 20 minutes.

Brownsville Health Department Director Art Rodriguez said despite this, bees are not considered a health threat to the community.

"Flies (and) mosquitoes, they represent a public health hazard because they carry disease. They are vectors of a disease, Rodriguez said. Bees on the other hand, while they are annoying and can sting you, they don't represent that public health threat."

Local health department's cannot do much about bees if they have infiltrated the walls of a home because of liability issues. If a hive is found outdoors and presents a danger, officers with the health department will respond, but all they can do is douse the hive with soap and water.

Barnes said property owners should keep their yards mowed and just like with mosquitoes, eliminate standing water if you don't want bees around.

"They need water to actually pollinate and to go back to make the honey in their nest," Barnes said.

Officials also warn if people are going to be outdoors with a sugary drink, they need to make sure to keep it covered, because if a bee lands in it, the next sip could prove deadly.

"Sometimes it's fatal if you do swallow a bee because of the venom they have, Barnes said. If the stinger, stings you in your mouth it's going to swell up."

Health officials recommend it you do spot a hive in your property, you call them or a licensed professional.