Springtime bee swarms to be expected

April 15, 2019 GMT

West Texans are turning to experts as bee colonies are expanding and looking for new places to call home this spring.

Tim Cleverdon, owner of Bee Busters in Midland, said situational awareness is key during peak swarm seasons, which take place in early spring and early fall.

He said bees swarm because they are either forced out due to factors like disease or predators, but can also travel in large groups if the colony outgrows its current space.

“Individual bees flying around your garden isn’t the problem,” Cleverdon said. “It’s where bees have established a colony or are trying to establish a colony when they start getting territorial.”

Stan Brown of Brown Pest Control Solutions located in Odessa said the majority of the bees in Midland-Odessa are honey bees, but “the bigger the hive is the more aggressive even honey bees will be.”

Brown said he has responded to about 20 bee control calls this month and expects to handle between 300-400 calls during swarm season ranging from abandoned RVs being brushed off for summer vacation plans to drilling rig sites.

Andrews Police Chief Ronny McCarver said his county shut down two residential blocks recently for about two hours to allow remediation of an unforeseen, aggressive bee swarm.

An Andrews’ homeowner had called Cleverdon for bee removal services and upon treatment the bees became aggressive and posed a risk to public safety.

“Sometimes you can get an idea of what you’re dealing with,” Cleverdon said. “In this case, it didn’t look like they were that aggressive. We were really concerned about Africanized bees because you don’t know what you’re getting until you start treating them.”

Africanized honey bees are dangerous stinging insects that have been known to chase people for more than a quarter of a mile, which Brown said he has experience with firsthand.

Cleverdon said the bees rushed out of the hive like agitated fire ants with wings.

McCarver confirmed that EMS was dispatched to the area and the incident resulted in an individual being transported to the emergency room, the person was released that same day.

Cleverdon estimates in the Midland-Odessa area anywhere between 30-50 percent of bees have some level of Africanization.

“Because of the crossbreeding we see different levels of aggressiveness,” he said.

Brown said people need to regularly inspect their property as a preventative measure to avoid unexpectedly triggering a swarm.

“Sometimes bees will actually bump you as a warning to tell you you’re going into their territory,” Cleverdon said. “If that happens you just turn around and go the other way. If you ignore that or you don’t realize what’s going on and you trigger the swarm, the best thing to do is to get to shelter whether it’s a vehicle or a home. If there’s no shelter available, you run away from them.”

Steve Mitchell is the mountain bike director for the Permian Basin Bicycle Association and manages the Odessa Mountain Bike Park.

Mitchell said he received a report about three weeks ago about a man being stung by bees within the park by Billy Hext Road.

“We’re going to keep an eye on it at the bike park,” he said. “We do want to be extra careful about Africanized bees around here. We actually did have a problem with them about two years ago and we had to have a hive removed.

Mitchell said he has not seen any bees since the report but will take additional action if more reports are made.