I had an interesting discussion about bees with a ROC manager last month while visiting one of the communities we represent in Manatee County.   The manager had attended a presentation on the "Africanized Honey Bee" (also referred to as the "Killer Bee"), a much nastier and far more dangerous "cousin" of the European Honey Bees that have lived in Florida for many years.   Unfortunately, the Africanized Honey Bee has now infiltrated almost all of the east coast of Florida from Palm Beach County south.   The most heavily populated areas for these "killer bees" on Florida’s west coast are currently Hillsborough, Pinellas and Lee Counties with a smaller population being found in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.  It’s predicted that within the next five to ten years Africanized Honey Bees will have spread throughout the entire area of the state south of Interstate 4.

Here are just a few of the more sobering aspects of the invasion of these "killer bees":

  • European Honey Bees will send out a few bees that may only hit a person that approaches their hive as a warning if these bees feel threatened.   These bees may swarm and sting if they still feel threatened.   However, the Africanized Honey Bee may feel threatened if a person gets within 150 yards of their hive–and, while they may only send out a few bees to investigate, if they still feel threatened (and remember, this may be at a distance of more than a football field from the hive!), the person may find himself under attack by at least one-third of the hive–or a minimum of 1,000 bees.
  • Any general commotion (such as lawn mowers or edgers, radios, sirens, loud talking,  or children playing) may be viewed as a threat to the hive and once the "killer bees" begin their attack, unless and until the perceived "threat" gets at least 300 yards away from the hive, the attack will continue. If the victim dives into a pool or other body of water to escape the attack, the bees will simply wait for the victim to come up for air and start stinging again, even though a bee will die approximately sixty seconds after stinging its victim.
  • These bees can fly at a speed of approximately 12 miles per hour, which is faster than most children or seniors can run.   If a victim is able to take cover in a car, home, shed, or other shelter, the bees may, again, simply wait for the victim to leave that protected area to recommence the attack and the hive may not return to normal for approximately twenty-four hours after the "killer bees" first perceive the threat.

The community’s manager referred me to the University of Florida’s Africanized Honey Bee website and I’d suggest that ROC managers and board members visit this site as it contains additional important information.

An attack by what might very well have been a swarm of these "killer bees" was brought to my attention by the manager of a community in Lee County during my visit there earlier this month.   Check out the article from the Fort Myers News Press and in particular the victim’s unsuccessful attempt to escape the bees by diving into a body of water as well as an ingenious approach to solving the Africanized Honey Bee problem.

Apparently, these bees prefer to build their hives under mobile homes (obviously an unfortunate choice for many ROCs), temporary buildings, live and dead trees, logs, certain pieces of playground equipment, holes, bird houses, abandoned vehicles, eaves and soffit areas of homes and even in patio furniture.  Hives can reach five to ten gallons in size and potential victims obviously include lawn crews and landscapers, but these "killer bees" may view any person or pet coming too close to their hive as a threat.

If a hive of bees is discovered in your community, I’d suggest that the ROC manager or an authorized board member contact a pest control company trained to handle bee removal and let the experts (not the board or the manager or one of the community volunteers) get rid of the hive and the bees.