Separate bee attacks put 3 people in the hospital: One species may be the culprit

By Kirsten Dorman
Published: Monday, August 28, 2023 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, August 28, 2023 - 5:25pm

A blonde woman can be seen lifting a frame out of a Langstroth beehive. The frame is covered in bees. She is not facing the camera and her hair covers her face. She is wearing a gray t shirt and white pants.
Cricket Aldridge
Cricket Aldrdige, executive director of the Arizona Backyard Beekeepers Association, inspecting cordovan Italian bees at Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale.

Last week, separate bee attacks hospitalized at least three people: two Chandler residents and a Sun City golf course worker.

“There’s lots of things going on in the environment to make bees testy,” said Cricket Aldridge, the executive director of the Arizona Backyard Beekeepers Association.

For example, a lack of pollen and water due to the heat.

“There’s a food shortage, there’s need for water, then there’s people doing landscaping and noisy things around their hive,” Aldridge said. “So those are [the] kind of things that create kind of a scenario where people are gonna get stung.”

According to Aldridge, the kind of weather tropical storm Hilary brought to Arizona also factors in.

“Bees in general don’t like stormy weather, cloudy weather, rainy weather,” she said.

That even includes docile bees. Arizona is home to a significant population of species that might explain why: Africanized honey bees, or apis mellifera scutellata.

“When they’re at their hive, they’re very very defensive,” Aldridge said.

They also reproduce about ten times more often, which Aldridge said is “why Arizona has so many African honey bees.”

Normally, she said even Africanized bees won’t attack unprompted.

“If you do happen to have bees attacking you, the best thing you can do is get into a car,” Aldridge said. “Close the windows. Even though there’s going to be bees in there with you, they will go to the window.”

It’s a method she’s used many times herself.

For other bee encounters or if you find a hive: “Call a beekeeper if you see bees and you want them removed.”

Because, Aldridge said, every kind of bee is worth saving.

A closeup of the underside of a fake, hollow rock is shown here. It is filled with bees and the hive they built inside the hollow space. Here they can be seen crawling between the layers of honeycomb they built.
Cricket Aldridge
Cricket Aldridge, executive director of the Arizona Backyard Beekeepers Association, relocated this hive of Africanized bees from the home they made inside a hollow fake rock.