Killer Bees and Fire Ants: Protecting yourself
Enjoying the outdoors is one of the biggest benefits of living in a beautiful state like Texas, but along with the beauty comes some danger. Non-native insects have invaded the area and can present serious and potentially deadly problems to residents and visitors. Africanized honeybees, also known as killer bees, and imported fire ants are among the most dangerous insects found in the Southern states. Both of these insects tend to attack in swarms, making them much more dangerous than their native counterparts.
The Africanized honeybee was originally brought from Africa to Brazil in 1956, as part of an attempt to create a hybrid bee species that would produce more honey in the region. Queens from the test hives were inadvertently released into the wild, where they began to mingle with local honeybees, which were introduced to the area from Europe. The resulting strain of bees was quite aggressive and prone to swarming, making them extremely dangerous to people and animals. A single Africanized bee is no more dangerous than any other bee. It is their propensity to swarm that creates a deadly situation.
The best defense against killer bees is to avoid areas that are known to have hives. However, in the case of most attacks, unwary people stumble upon a hive and find themselves amidst a swarm. If this happens, simply run as fast as you can, in a straight line, until they stop following you. Generally, they will not chase you further than a quarter-mile from their hive. Do not attempt to hide in water, as the bees will just wait until you surface for air and attack again. Protect your face as well as possible, as facial stings are more painful and more likely to provoke an allergic reaction. If you cannot escape and are attacked, try to find a hose or shower, as the bees seem to have an aversion to running water. Seek shelter wherever you can. If you see someone being attacked, call for emergency services immediately.
If you are stung, seek medical attention if you have had previous reactions to bee stings or if you were stung by more than fifteen bees. Remove stingers by scraping them out, rather than plucking them out, to help reduce the amount of venom injected into the body. Call 911 immediately if there is severe swelling or if the victim has difficulty breathing.
Imported fire ants have become a serious pest over the past several years. They are believed to have originally made their way into the southern states in cargo ships from South America. These ants are very aggressive and will bite and sting any person or animal that disturbs their nest. They do not die after a single sting, like a bee and will attack a victim repeatedly.
As with any outdoor pest, avoidance is the only real way to prevent an attack. Keep an eye open for ant mounds and wear boots with long pants tucked in when going into fire ant prone areas. If you are bitten or swarmed, get away from the nest and sweep off the ants as quickly as possible. Stings are painful and often irritated for hours. In the case of minor stings, use Benadryl and topical anti-itch medications to control the symptoms. If you have a severe reaction to the venom from a fire ant or anaphylaxis sets in, seek medical attention immediately.
While stings from pests like killer bees and fire ants can be painful and frightening occurrences, there are relatively few deaths within the population each year. With proper reactions and quick treatment, an attack from either of these insects can be dealt with effectively in many cases.
Joe Cline writes articles for Remax Realtor. Other articles written by the author related to Austin real estate and Lakeway Texas Real Estate can be found on the net.