Summer Safety: Bees

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If you plan to spend time outdoors, it is important to be aware of your surroundings, and remain alert for bees. Africanized honey bees, in particular, are of concern to people due to their selection of nesting sites and defensive behavior. Staying away from swarms or nests is important, especially for children and the elderly.
The Africanized honey bees cannot be distinguished from European honey bees by sight. This term ‘African honey bee’ refers to a single race from southern Africa know as Apis mellifera scutellata. In 1956, researchers in Brazil were experimenting with African honey bees in order to improve beekeeping in tropical areas, and accidently released some African honey bees. These bees were extremely well suited to the area and began to hybridize with European honey bees. This facilitated their spread at a rate of 200 to 300 miles per year, eventually resulting in them entering the US in 1990 through Texas. As of 2006, they are now established in Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and Florida and their spread continues.
If they attack you, cover your face and eyes by pulling a shirt over your head. They are defending their nest; you need to get away as fast as possible. Run away in a straight line, do not stand and swat at the bees. Look for cover in a car or house. Running through tall grass will help disrupt your image from the bees. Do not jump in a pool, they will just swarm and wait for you. If you are stung, remove the stinger quickly by scraping it out. It is important to have a bee sting kit on hand. Local reactions to bee stings include swelling, pain, itching and redness at the site of the bee sting. Ice packs will reduce swelling at the site, and Calamine lotion will help with local skin reactions.
Any stings in the throat, face or head need to have immediate medical treatment, because swelling could be life threatening. Benedryl [diphenhydramine] can slow an allergic reaction, but will not stop it. The following are some signs of an allergic reactions, and you should call 911 immediately. Some signs of an allergic reaction are difficulty swallowing hives, fainting, light-headedness, dizziness, abdominal pain or cramping, high-pitched breathing sounds, difficulty breathing mental confusion, rapid pulse, slurred speech, wheezing, fluid in the lungs, low blood pressure, skin that is blue from lack of oxygen or pale from shock swelling in the throat, swelling of the eyes, face or neck, weakness, or severe perspiration.

The best way to prevent bee stings is prevention. Stay away from power equipment, wear protective clothing when gardening or walking outside, and always visualize areas when doing any yard work. Good yearly maintenance includes checking the walls and eaves of structures on a regular basis, and close off walls, chimney, electrical and plumbing related gaps that are more than 1/8” large with a small-mesh hardware cloth (8-mesh or higher) or caulking.

Julie Tullos, RN, BSN, CCM, LNC      [225] 368-7461

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