WASHINGTON CITY – An agitated hive of feral bees in a Washington City home’s attic drew out firefighters and the Washington County Bee Inspector Tuesday.
Just before 6 p.m., an exterminator contracted to remove the bees that had built a hive in the roof of a home on Arrowhead Way called 911. Some of the bees swarming around him got into his suit and stung him and he began to have a mild allergic reaction, Washington City firefighter Julio Reyes said.
Both Washington City Fire and Gold Cross Ambulance responded to the incident with the man who had been stung getting treated at the scene before being taken to Dixie Regional Medical Center by a friend.
The trio of Washington City firefighters who arrived at the home on Arrowhead Way went to inspect the hive – and quickly withdrew across the street.
“They were ultra-aggressive,” Reyes said of the bees, adding the firefighters hadn’t encountered bees that angry before.
At that point, the firefighters called Casey Lofthouse, the county bee inspector and a professional beekeeper, for help.
Lofthouse said a likely reason why the bees were agitated and swarming around their hive was because they had been disturbed and the hive had been ripped out.
“The longer the hive is open, the more agitated they get,” he said, adding the hive under the roof top was pretty big and well established.
Despite the fact they were responding to having their home invaded and taken apart, the feral bees were were rather “docile,” Lofthouse said.
Lofthouse spent about an hour on the roof removing batches of honeycomb from the exposed rooftop. While doing so he sprayed the bees with a solution of water and dish soap that renders them unable to fly.
On a larger scale, that is one of the reasons why firefighters tend to get sent to emergency calls involving swarming bees, Reyes said, as the firefighters can hose down aggressive swarms with water and foam if necessary.
Reyes estimated the Fire Department gets called out to bee incidents around 10-12 times a year.
While there have been cases of by Africanized bee attacks in Washington County, Lofthouse said, he didn’t believes the feral bees he removed were among them. If they had been, they would have been much more aggressive.
The only way to tell for certain if a there has been an attack by Africanized bees is by sending one to the state for DNA testing.
The primary problem with feral bees is that they can build a hive you don’t know about until its disturbed and a swarm is released, Lofthouse said.
The swarm eventually died down as the sun set and Lofthouse cleared out the last of the hive and dumped the bees and honeycombs into several garbage bags he dropped in the back of his truck. Occasional buzzing from the bees could still be heard as he spoke to St. George News.
As a feral hive removal can cost a homeowner hundreds of dollars, Lofthouse recommends visiting the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food website for tips on how to bee-proof your home.
The following tips are among those offering on how to keep your home bee-free.
To prevent honey bees from settling in your house or yard, you will need to prohibit access to potential nesting sites in the following ways:
- Caulk cracks in walls, in the foundation and in the roof.
- Fill or cover all holes 1/8-inch in diameter or larger in trees, structures and/or block walls.
- Check where the chimney meets the house for separation and make sure chimneys are covered properly.
- Put small-mesh screen (such as window screen) over attic vents, irrigation valve boxes and water meter box keyholes.
- Remove any trash or debris that might serve as a shelter for honey bees.
- Fill or cover animal burrows in the ground.
- Make sure window and sun screens are tight fitting.
- Keep shed doors tightly closed and in good repair and exercise caution when entering buildings that are not used frequently.
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