A woman was stung by bees about 100 times in Indio today, and a man was stung about 80 times, Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department is reporting.
The attack in the 81200 block of Francis Avenue was reported about 6:50 a.m. Tuesday.
Both the man and the woman, who were not identified by authorities, were stung on their upper bodies and heads; they were transported to a hospital for treatment, according to Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department.
Firefighters used foam to disable the bees.
Whether the bees were Africanized has not been confirmed, but the behavior matches that of “killer” bees, which are present throughout Southern California, according to UC Riverside’s Center for Invasive Species Research. (See attached Africanized honey bee distribution map.)
“Africanized honey bee[s] respond to activity near their colonies with increased numbers of stinging bees over much greater distances. This can make them life-threatening, especially to people allergic to stings or with limited capacity to escape (the young, old and handicapped), and to confined livestock or pets. In each country into which they have migrated, they have killed humans and animals,” according to published information from UC Riverside’s Center for Invasive Species Research.
According to James Nieh, a professor of biology at UC San Diego who studies bee behavior, when a bee stings you it releases an alarm pheromone that other bees can smell, causing them to react aggressively.
"So when a normal honeybee stings you, maybe a couple of other honeybees will come by, investigate and try to sting you. In an Africanized honeybee you could have hundreds of bees trying to sting you," he told KPBS in 2010.
Despite their dangerous reputation, UCR’s Center for Invasive Species Research contends the United States has had effective public education and control practices, and few people have been or will be killed by bees.
Still, most people want to avoid the stinging insects. Given that Africanized honey bees look very much like any other honey bee that calls the United States home, what should you do if you encounter a hive or swarm of any kind?
Los Angeles County West Vector & Vector-Borne Disease Control District advises that people and pets stay away from all bee swarms and colonies, and residents should call professional vector control if bees are on their property.
“Do not disturb or tease bees, and do not try to remove bees yourself. Do not shoot at, spray water at, throw rocks at, or douse bee colonies with chemicals. This will only irritate the bees. Also, do not attempt to control bees with aerosol pesticides."
If bees are swarming near you, do not panic. “Remain calm and quietly retreat until the bees are out of sight. If forced to run, use your arms and hands to protect your face and eyes from possible stings. Quickly take shelter in a car or building. Water or thick brush does not offer adequate protection,” according to the Los Angeles County West Vector & Vector-Borne Disease Control District.
EDITOR'S NOTE: If you experience a bee problem on your property and you live in the city of Lake Elsinore or Canyon Lake, call Northwest Mosquito and Vector Control District at 951-340-9792. If the bees are living on your property, the agency will remove them at no charge provided they have not nested inside your home's interior. (CLICK HERE FOR A LIST OF OTHER CITIES SERVED BY NORTHWEST MOSQUITO AND VECTOR CONTROL DISTRICT.) For residents who live in the city of Wildomar or live in unincorporated area, contact the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health/Vector Control at 951-766-9454.