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Swarm Of Killer Bees Attack In Southern California

A swarm of 40,000 African killer (Africanized) bees attacked first responders in Pasadena California on Feb. 20, resulting in the hospitalization of five people.

One of the first fire-fighters who arrived at the scene in Pasadena was stung over 17 times. Three others were rushed to the hospital while others hurried to shut the block down. 

“I’ve been with the fire department for 18 years now and responded to several bee incidents … but never to this magnitude,” Pasadena’s fire department Public Information Officer, Lisa Derderian, said

Professional beekeepers and fire-fighters went up to the roof of Hampton Inn to remove the hive and place it in a safe place where the bees would follow. While removing the hive, they used carbon dioxide and foam extinguishers 

Africanized bees are smaller and have less venom than European honey bees. However, they are more aggressive when defending their hives. Despite this aggression, for an average sized adult person, it would take nearly 1000 bee stings in order to get a lethal dose of venom. 

In 1982, researchers found that unlike the average honey bee, “Africanized bees respond to colony disturbance more quickly, in greater numbers, and more stinging.” This resulted in more aggressive bee attacks when defending the hive. In the past 50 years, hundreds of people have died due to Africanized honey bee attacks. These bees have been known to chase people as far as a quarter of a mile from the hive.

Africanized honey bees started to appear in 1956, when a Brazillian scientist tried to cross breed African bees with local honey bees to try and increase honey production. A year later, a hive of bees escaped, resulting in an unmonitored hybrid breeding with European honey bees. In 1985, the Africanized bees spread as far as Mexico, and by 2014, the bees had reached as far as San Francisco. The Africanized honey bees are an invasive species in America. 

Chloe Mosier is a City News Intern for the 2020 winter quarter. She can be reached at mosierc@uci.edu.