Africanized Bees Attack Near Kayler Springs

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Bee experts at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson believe Africanized honeybees are in Arizona to stay.

Early in the afternoon on Oct. 8, Robert Rupe found out about the bees the hard way while quail hunting in Kayler Butte near Tonto Basin.

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Robert Rupe wonders how long he would have had to hold his breath under water if he had been cooling off in Kayler Springs when Africanized bees attacked him.

"When I got near Kayler Springs, they attacked me. I didn't get to see the water. They were on me before I could get to the water," said Rupe.

"(It) was a really hot day, and I was anticipating getting in that stream and getting cooled off," he said. "I've been an outdoorsman all my life. I've been hunting there 50 years and never encountered anything like this before."

The bees swarmed, then stung Rupe without warning.

"They were just like dive-bombers, kamikazes."

Rupe then had an uphill climb to get away from them. He crossed over two barbed wire fences, getting his legs tangled, and in the process, fell backwards into some cactus.

Tired, thirsty and sick to his stomach, it took him five hours to reach his vehicle.

"I had to use my shotgun as a crutch to get uphill," Rupe said.

He and his wife counted approximately 50 bee stings when he made it home. (The average person can tolerate approximately 10 stings per pound of body weight.)

By Thursday, he couldn't stand the discomfort, and was treated by his doctor with antibiotics and allergy shots.

Rupe wonders who is responsible for removal of the bees, and worries that they are a danger to wildlife that comes to drink at Kayler Springs.

"Most of the bees that are encountered out in the field these days are Africanized bees," said Randy Babb, biologist with Arizona Game and Fish.

"We don't do invertebrates. That's probably the Department of Agriculture."

"Before budget cuts, we actually used to regulate bees. Now we have no jurisdiction over them," said Katie Decker, public information officer at the Arizona Department of Agriculture. "They have been monitored closely at the Tucson bee lab."

Yet the CHBRC is no longer keeping statistics. It does not keep a list of reported sightings or attacks since Arizona was declared infested back in the early 1990s.

"Whoever owns the property is responsible to remove (the bees)," said CHBRC secretary Diane Medley.

Kayler Springs and Butte are located on national forest land, but the forest service considers the bees to be part of the landscape, according to Vinnie Picard, deputy public affairs officer.

"Sometimes we coordinate the removal of bees (with the agriculture department) if the bees are near a rest area or popular trailhead, but in general, probably not," said Picard.

He said he did not believe there was any danger to animals from the bees.

What To Do If Attacked by Africanized Honeybees

Run away.

Pull your shirt over your head to protect your face if possible.

Keep running until you reach shelter.

Do not flail your arms and swat at the bees.

Remove the bee stingers by scraping them out sideways.

Seek medical attention if you are allergic or feeling ill.

The educational resource area at gears.tucson.ars.ag. gov has more information.

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