The first Africanized Honey Bees, also known as killer bees, have recently been detected in San Luis Obispo County, Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Marty Settevendemie said.
An unidentified local bee keeper discovered that the aggressive strain of bees had invaded his Arroyo Grande hives. The California Department of Food and Agriculture confirmed that the bees were of the Africanized variety through lab analysis.
“They (Africanized bees) are not as dangerous as it was once thought that they would be,” Settevendemie said. “People have to disturb a hive for the bees to swarm.”
The Africanized bees look like normal honey bees and their venom is no more potent. However, they are more aggressive when defending their hives, attack in greater numbers and will protect a larger area around their hives, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Africanized bees propagate quickly because they are indiscriminate in their nesting habits and breed with local honey bees, quickly multiplying.
When chased by a bee swarm: run in a straight line, cover the face and head with a shirt or jacket and find shelter in an enclosed structure.
After being stung, remove the stinger by scraping it out with a fingernail or card (squeezing the stinger can release more venom) and wash the area and apply ice to help reduce swelling.
Seek medical attention if breathing becomes labored, you are stung multiple times or are allergic to bees.
The Arroyo Grande bee keeper took action by killing the next generation of bees and introducing a docile European honey bee queen into the infested hives to counter the aggressive characteristics of the Africanized bees, Settevendemie said.
The Africanized bees were introduced to the Americas by a geneticist that was hoping to create a honey bee more suited to tropical conditions than the European bee. He imported the bees to Brazil in 1956.
The bees began their northward journey covering up to 300 miles per year.
The Department of Agriculture considers the following counties infested: San Diego, Madera, Tulare, Imperial, Los Angeles, Kings, Inyo, Kern, Ventura, Riverside, Orange and Santa Barbara. Residents and bee keepers in these areas have adjusted to living with Africanized bees.