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Bee Infestation: What to do when you encounter a bee swarm

Published on Jul 2, 2014 5:01 PM
 

Nearly every year, some winged friends swarm to Singapore's sunny shores. The threatening buzzing of their wings and the knowledge that they can sting put some folk on edge. In the past couple of weeks, these buzzing creatures have been paying their yearly visits to some unsuspecting residents again, as reported by citizen journalism site Stomp.

Yes, the bees are back.

We talk to experts to understand why these bee infestations happen, and how you can react in the face of one.

The colonies of bees typically arrive at the end of the rainy season or the start of the dry season. These are the periods where several species of nectar-yielding flowers are in bloom. Swarms of bees migrate from their natural habitats and seek shelter in buildings when their habitats are destroyed by strong winds or rains. The bees are unlikely to attack unless provoked.

If you find yourself faced with an infestation, here's a list of simple do's and don'ts:

Do...

- Cover your face and run as quickly and far away as possible. Bees don't fly very fast, and it is easy to outrun a bee.

- Run against the wind. The resistance makes it harder for the bees to keep pace with you.

- Run in a straight line to prevent other people from getting stung if you zigzag around them.

- Run until you get to shelter. Most bees will not follow you indoors. Those who do will be disoriented by the room's lights and temperature, and will instinctively fly towards the windows.

- Make use of any kind of coverage if you can't get to proper shelter, such as a blanket, tent or car.

Don't...

- Swat the bees or flail your arms. Bees are attracted to movement, and moving vigorously will only attract them to you.

- Crush bees. Crushed bees release a scent of bananas that will draw more bees to you.

- Jump into water as the bees will wait for you to resurface anyway.

In the event of a bee infestation, you should call a pest control company. If someone has been attacked by the bees, do seek medical attention immediately.

While the bees' stings are usually not fatal, they can be life-threatening to certain people who are allergic to the venom. Regardless, it is essential to remove the stinger and get medical attention as soon as possible.

Here are some steps to take should you be stung:

- Remove the stinger immediately. Do not use your fingers or tweezers as they may push more venom into the wound. Use your fingernail, the edge of a credit card, or any other object with a straight edge. Do this as quickly as possible.

- Apply ice or a cold compress to bring down the swelling.

- Seek medical attention promptly, as those who are allergic to bee stings can die within 30 minutes of the attack.

Information culled from the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, www.learnaboutnature.com and insects.about.com and sgwildanimals.blogspot.sg

Background story

Bees in Singapore

There are about 20,000 species of bees in the world, five of which are commonly found in Singapore.

Asian Honey Bee

Traits: They can grow up to 10mm in size, and have yellow or dark brown and black stripes.

Where they reside: They move in very tight tennis ball- to basketball-sized swarms, and are located in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate regions. Can also be found in urban areas.

Dwarf Honey Bee

Traits: The smallest in the species of honey bees, these bees grow up to 9mm in size. They have distinctive thin yellow bands.

Where they reside: They are generally confined to warm climates. These bees are most commonly found in South-east Asia.

European Honey Bee

Traits: They can grow up to 15mm in size and have yellow/brown to dark brown stripes.

Where they reside: They are the most commonly found species, and are distributed widely throughout Europe, Africa, and parts of western Asia, as well as in the Americas.

Giant Honey Bee

Traits: The largest honey bees in the world, they are usually 17mm to 20mm long and have a yellow thorax and upper abdomen.

Where they reside: They are found predominantly in or near forests, although at times nests may be observed in towns near forest areas. These bees are known to be viscious should their nests be disturbed.

Carpenter Bee

Traits: They are usually approximately 20mm in size and have a shiny, black abdomen. The carpenter bee is able to sting more than once as their stingers are smooth and do not get caught in the skin as they fly off.

Where they reside: They are distributed all over the world and are typically considered solitary bees, travelling individually.