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'Bee' happy (or not)

August 17, 2018
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze


A dear friend's daughter was helping her boyfriend do yard work when she ran into a nest of

Africanized honey bees. He immediately took her to the hospital where they found she had over 200 stings. Bees were still on her T-shirt and they pulled out many of the stingers from her body. She had a two-day stay at the hospital and is recuperating at home now. She is lucky, it was a big shock to her system. So, be on the look-out for nesting bees. If you find any, contact the Extension or a Certified Pest Control Service. They can tell the difference and smoke out the bees. All wild swarms run the risk of being Africanized.

A couple of years ago, Extension had programs on the dangers and hazards of Africanized bees. They usually swarm from March to July, so we're not in season, these had settled in. Patrol your yard for any bee activity. They do cross-bred with our European honey bees, which they resemble. Africanized honeybees can be very frightening, treat them with respect, meaning stay out of their way. Just remember, "killer bee" images come from rumors or sci-fi movies, not facts. They are not aggressive, they are defensive. Our European honey bees may display defensive behavior but at a reduced level.

Beekeepers have bees that have been bred for docility for many years.

Africanized honeybees are the same species as our well-known European honeybee, but belong to a different subspecies, similar characteristics but originated in different geographic regions. They do not do well in cold climates, as they originated in warmer areas.

Do not stay in one spot or swat at them if you are attacked, that causes them to sting, they are defending their nest. You are too close to their nest. Key words here - they are being defensive. Leave the area immediately, and don't head for underbrush or a lake or pond and go underwater, they hang around much too long, they outlast you. Run in a straight line to seek the shelter of a car or building, shut the door. Some may enter with you, but a few can be handled better than the swarm. Like their cousins, the European bees, African bees die once they have used their stingers. Cover your ears, mouth and nose to keep them from your air passages. They can pursue a victim a kilometer (.621371 miles).

Don't run to help someone being attacked. Yell at that person to go for cover quickly.

Stingers should be scraped out (not plucked) as soon as possible to keep the venom from being released. A credit card or fingernail will do the trick. Wash the area with warm soap and water, apply ice. Swelling is normal, but if you are having a reaction, call emergency people, or use an available convenient emergency sting kit. An African bee sting is not more painful than regular bees, it is just that many more bees will come to sting you, a group attack.

The best defense is a good offense. Remove or block potential nesting sites like abandoned vehicles, empty containers, places with holes, fences, lumber piles, manholes, water meters, utility infrastructures, old tires, garages, outbuildings, sheds, walls, chimneys, crawl spaces under buildings.

We need bees, not just for their honey, but their pollinating abilities. We need to save bees, period.

Florida is home to more than 300 species of bees. They vary in size and colors. They can be found in well-drained soils as well as trees.

More than 80 percent of flowering plants and food crops need pollinating by insects. Many people like to plant bee gardens, to attract bees and keep their species going. Native wildflowers are great bee attracters. This means using organic methods of pest control on the flowers used for pollination. I just found out that Neem oil used full strength on the flowers will kill bees. Read the directions on the container.

Many people like to raise bees for their honey. When we lived in Ohio, backyard neighbors had hives with a large, thick shrubbery hedge covering their view. I had put up a badminton court on the lovely grassy area where the children loved to play barefoot. I also had planted mint under the house's water spigot. When the mint was in bloom, the bees made a beeline through the shrubs to the back of the house, straight for those pollen-laden blooms. My children knew to be on the look-out, but one of their friends stepped on a bee and was immediately stung. I cannot condemn anyone for their love of honey and honeycombs. Just preach awareness to all who enter their domain.

Another awareness alert is, Nandina bush berries are toxic to birds and other animals. I love the delicate leaves of a Nandina shrub. Their bright red berries are a visual plus in the winter months. Birds love berries, but Nandina berries contain cyanide and other alkaloids that produce highly toxic hydrogen cyanide, which is extremely poisonous to all animals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and most states classify Nandin domestica as a noxious, non-native, invasive weed from China and Japan.

I'm not the only one who likes Nandina shrubs, so they have naturalized and invaded our national parks, wildlife refuges, our national forests, city parks and other habitats throughout the U.S. It is pointless to have to clip off the forming berries for safety, just don't plant Nandina.

Remember to thank a tree for all its potential in keeping our lives blessed.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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