Bee Swarms Frighten Residents

Bee swarm disturbs Scripp Ranch neighborhood


Police responded to reports of a swarm of bees in the Scripps Ranch area, on Sunday.

This is the third swarm that authorities have responded to in the last week, including Saturday's attack on two San Diego police officers and the death of a man in Encinitas.

The most recent swarm was reported just before 9 a.m. near Lake View Park in Scripps Ranch, police said.

Police didn't report any injuries from the bee swarm, but nearby residents have been frightened by them in the last few days.

"I have a tree in the back yard and they swarmed around and landed in the tree. I closed all the windows and doors and then I left the house. When I came back three hours later they were gone," said Cynthia Rowe.

The Scripps Ranch resident walks her dog to the park every day.

"I was afraid they were here to stay because I'd have to keep the dog inside.  But I'm glad they left," she said.  

Rowe said the swarm was frightening.  

"It seemed like it was getting bigger and bigger.  It was getting noisier and noisier. And then by the time I left the house it was like a basketball size.  They had all settled down and they were all clumped on a branch," she said.

Jeffrey Lutz of Bee Best Bee Removal said the swarms are a product of the wet winter and spring.  "We've had a lot more rain this year.  And the bees will tend to kick out more swarms whenever there's a lot more rain.  There's a lot more nectar and food for 'em," he said.

Lutz said the stingings are likely from Africanized bees which make up 75% to 80% of all bees in San Diego County.  And these bees tend to be unforgiving.  "Once they've been disturbed, they'll go quite a distance to attack the perpetrator or the person that they feel is the perceived threat to their colony," he said.

Lutz expects reports of swarms to continue through the summer and possibly September and November.

On Saturday morning, officers were chasing a suspect through a canyon in the Morena district, when the bees attacked. Both officers were taken to the hospital and released, police said.

It's not yet clear if the bees are the same aggressive kind suspected in Wednesday’s deadly bee attack in Encinitas.

Marco Lazaro, 54, was operating a backhoe at Manchester Ave. and Pacific Ranch Dr. at about 11 a.m. Wednesday when he disturbed the hive and unleashed up to 80,000 bees.

Lazaro ran about 200 yards to an outhouse in an attempt to escape but it was too late.
By the time paramedics arrived, the diabetic man had been stung up to 500 times and was in full cardiac arrest. He was transported to Scripps Encinitas where he was pronounced dead.

It's not known with certainty if the bees that attacked Lazaro were the aggressive Africanized type. The Africanized bee is much more aggressive than its cousin, the European honeybee.

This is bee season, the time of year when beekeepers get a lot of reports of swarms of bees. They say those swarms are not necessarily dangerous if left unprovoked.

"Probably many people have been driving along and have driven through a bee swarm, and those are just simply bees that are moving from one place to another looking for another hollow tree or place to live.  They're not aggressive, they're not going to sting people," said Stephen Tanksley, owner of Pinpoint Pest Control.

Beekeepers say only four-percent of the population is highly allergic to bees, an attack can be dangerous for anyone. In fact, they say 50 stings could threaten the life of an average healthy adult.

"You can only take so much. Anyone can. At a certain point, the heart gives out; the lymph nodes expand so much your throat closes out. There's a variety of ways to go from that," said Brian Tanksley from Pinpoint Pest Control.

They say the best thing to do when encountering aggressive bees, is to run in a straight line. The bees fly in a zigzag. Also, never jump into water. They say the bees will wait at the surface for someone to come up for air.

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