Victim in Bee Attack a Longtime Arizona Resident

Only about forty people die each year in the U.S. from bee attacks.  Often, an allergic reaction proves fatal.  But when Africanized bees are involved, the level of aggression and the size of the swarm can produce enough stings to kill.

Sadly, for one Arizona man, the bees who stung him last week were Africanized.  John Wade died from a heart attack last week following between 500 and 1,000 bee stings.  Mr. Wade was staying on a property in Kingman, AZ, when he went into the back yard shed and encountered a large bee colony.

Mr. Wade spent much of his life in Lake Havasu, just sixty miles south of Kingman.  He raised five children there but lost two sons along the way.  At the time of his death, he had three adult daughters still in living in Tucson and Kingman.

Mr. Wade was community minded, a lifetime member of the Elks Lodge in Lake Havasu, the Masonic Lodge, and the American Legion.

“He was a great guy,” said Gene Flatt, one of Wade’s several long time friends. “A lot of things happened in his life. (His death) was a shock to me. He used to come to Havasu quite often, but he hadn’t been back for a few years.”

Indiana Airport Gives Land for Bee Habitat

Apparently the sound of roaring jet engines doesn’t keep the bees from buzzing, as airports are proving to be a friendly habitat for endangered pollinators.

The first airport to provide a safe space for bees was in Hamburg, Germany, in 1999.  Since then, several U.S. airports including the large O’Hare in Chicago and Lambert-St. Louis, have partnered with beekeepers.

Airports have plenty of unused land, and space for bees to roam without threatening travelers.

The newest airport to join is in Indianapolis, where Mike Seib manages the Indianapolis International Airport Community Apiary.  More than 49% of bees in this area were lost last year, and they pollinate everything from pumpkins to apples.

 

Seib reports his hive yields about 100 pounds of honey annually.  He checks his hives assiduously for any sign of the fungus that causes “colony collapse disorder.”

“They fly around in the day,” he said, while scores of them buzzed around his bee cage hat and mask one day this week. “But at night they crawl, and they climb up my pants and won’t get off.”

Using the airport’s public property nixes any liability issues on the part of beekeepers, should an unwary traveler get stung.

The airport authority has reserved 2,000 acres of land for conservation purposes. Sodalis Nature Park, 210 acres that is home to 100 species of wildlife, including Indiana bats, is also part of the authority’s refuge.

The Economics of the Birds and the Bees

Most of us don’t give insects a second thought, unless they are a nuisance that means putting on repellent or calling the exterminator.  They have a negative image that is wholly inaccurate, as most bugs are helpful to humankind and many are necessary for our existence.

The bee die-off has been front page news because their demise could devastate our agricultural production. Pollinators like bees, moths and butterflies are key players in preparing food crops.

Both domesticated (farmed) and wild bees are dying off, but more attention has been given to the domestic kind, since over half of farmed colonies have disappeared in a single year.

Wild bees also do a lot of pollinating, but oddly, only two percent of the known wild bee species pollinate 80% of our crops.

Why should this matter?

The reasoning goes like this: if only a few bees are critical for human survival (food production), why worry about conserving all the rest?  Or, for that matter, why worry about conserving any animal that hasn’t shown a direct economic value to mankind?

The simple answer to this leading question is because we don’t fully understand the complexity of ecosystems.  One type of bee may not pollinate food crops, but may pollinate a plant that is critical to some other species that is – even more indirectly – necessary for our survival.  We also don’t have a map of biodiversity that is detailed enough to predict the future.

Experts emphasize that issues of conservation and biodiversity must be considered from more than just an economic viewpoint.

British Town Temporarily Invaded by Bees

The city of Leeds, in north central England, is the third larges city in the UK.  Yesterday their population grew when two parts of the bustling metropolis were invaded by swarms of bees.

Tourists and residents alike fled on foot and bicycle as the swarms took over two separate, highly populated districts about two hundred yards apart, near some of the city’s major shopping areas.  Thousands of bees swarmed, flying about and creating havoc among pedestrians, who were also out in great numbers on the warm summer day.

Some onlookers decided it was best to flee, but a few stood about gazing upward at the massive number of flying insects.

Beekeepers were called into herd the bees into protective cages, before being placed into temporary hives for transport, then relocated to a more appropriate landscape.

The two areas were cordoned off while beekeepers in full white suits worked to subdue the bugs.  Bee experts noted the swarming behavior is “perfectly natural” for the warm months between April and July, and happens each year.

The colony gets too big in this season, and new queen bees mean new territory is necessary.  The old queen will leave the hive with about half the colony members to search for a new home.

Fruit Fly Repellant In Embryonic Stages

Fruit flies are on the hunt, looking for blueberries and cherries and any other delicious summer bounty they can land on.  The flies are mostly a nuisance to consumers, but to farmers they are the source of major crop destruction.

The climate in many European countries as well as northern California is ideal for Drosophilia suzukii, who meanders through the skies in search of fruit for laying eggs.  Once the fly’s brood is securely positioned on a nice round blueberry, for instance, the laid eggs use the fruit as shelter and food during the hatching process.  The result is destroyed fruit, on the order of millions of dollars worth each year.

A professor of entomology at UC Riverside is leading the experiment.  Anandasankar Ray has found a compound that naturally occurs in fruit, chemical compound with a pleasing odor called Butyl anthranilate, that also repels fruit flies.

The research is its early stages and needs more work to turn the finding into a non-toxic repellant.  The next step is a patent, then EPA approval, before a potentially magical fruit fly solution could be brought to market.

Tucson News Now

Land of Lakes Battles Mosquitoes

Minnesota is known for its water and has become a summer time playground for boaters and fishermen.  It’s also a state known for its mosquitoes.

They are large, they swarm, and they come out each year to nibble away at the ankles of all humans, without discriminating.  Rich or poor, out-of-towner or resident, this bug will bite whatever flesh is nearby.

But one organization has the expertise to quell these pests.  They are the mosquito-fighting scientists and bureaucrats at the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, or MMCD for short.

Over the years, MMCD has perfected techniques at search-and-destroy, usually beginning their missions in late-May.  Their first quest, always, is to search, so they set out to examine all sorts of water-holding areas, including culverts, underground catch basins, and drainage ditches.

In seven counties, 208 MMCD workers fan out to seek mosquito larvae, and they focus on standing water like puddles.  It only takes about a half inch of water to grow a tiny egg into a rampaging adult mosquito.

The MMCD website is a community resource, and will help any mosquito-wary human find out which types of the bugs carry disease, versus which just fly around and pretend to be deadly.

 

Canadian Town in Need of Pied Piper

The rat problem in the town of Hamilton has doubled in the last year, and the city is no different than other large urban areas.  Climate change and increased development are considered the major culprits.

Officials stress how important a community, or comprehensive approach, can be in dealing with the problem.  All members of the community need to participate, get educated, and change their own behaviors.  What the city can offer is sewer baiting, which has been used effectively in the past.

In Spring 2014, rat complaints reported to city officials numbered only seven in Hamilton, Ontario but a year later they are up to 20 and climbing.

Resident of this scenic area need to take the problem more seriously, as it will only spread due to warmer temperatures and more housing in the area.  Public health officials have requested that community members not feed any type of wildlife, as food left out attracts rodents.

Robert Hall, city director of health promotion, stressed how critical it is that the community make an effort together to rid the city of its rat population.

“You can’t tackle this on a one-on-one basis. This has to be a community effort,” he said. “It probably will continue trending upwards for a while, but if we start putting in place more proactive communication … hopefully over the next couple of years we’ll see that trend start to decline.”

Just the word “tarantula” is enough to send any person to a fit of the creeps. The sight of its hairy, long, thick legs and large body is the stuff of horror movies, and its bite is anything but pleasant.

Tarantulas have only a few natural predators; but if there is one other insect in the animal world that can strike the same evasive effect to tarantulas as tarantulas can do to humans, then the tarantula hawk wasp is the strongest contender.

The tarantula hawk gets its name from the rather cruel and grisly manner of their procreation. “They capture and paralyze spiders, they then bring the paralyzed spider to an underground nest, lay eggs on the spider and the wasp larvae hatch and feed on the spider,”  Dr. Chris Nice, a Texas State University biology professor said.

Though usually not very aggressive and are relatively docile as far as wasps go, once threatened, these 2-inch-long, black and orange things “with a sting like death” do attack. And if you think the tarantula’s bite is the stuff of nightmares, wait until you get stung by a tarantula wasp. Its pain scale is rated number 4 on American entomologist, Justin Schmidt’s Schmidt Sting Pain Index — second only to the aptly named bullet ant. If ever you get to reading the vivid descriptions of people getting bit by these things, the experience is anything short of traumatic.

Schmidt describes the sting to be “…immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations.” He even recounts the experience of one scientist who tried to grab the said wasps: “Undeterred after the first sting, he continued, receiving several more stings, until the pain was so great he lost all of them and crawled into a ditch and just bawled his eyes out.”

This July, it’s that time of the year once again, and these critters are beginning to show up in even larger numbers. Stay safe and non-intrusive. If you’re one of those people, keep your tarantula pets safe at home and please, please refrain from intentionally picking up or stepping on anything remotely resembling these black and orange stingers of death, no matter how curious you get. For safer expulsion, contact your local pest control professionals.

And if you do get bitten, the experts’ advice is simple: Just lie down and scream it all out until it’s over.

Spring Rains Bring Bees to the Desert

Rains in springtime are unusual in Arizona, but this year there was a bit more moisture.  Combined with a very mild winter, the conditions are just right to grow a thriving bee community in many parts of the state

Exterminators are hard at work containing large colonies found in yards and sheds.  These bees are feral, or wild, and their population is doing well.  Unlike commercially raised honeybees, feral bees are not dying in large numbers.

As a result of climate conditions, experts estimate there are two to three times as many wild honeybees flying around metropolitan areas than is normal this time of year.

The greater numbers mean more reports of bee-human contact, particularly in high population areas.  In May, ten people received bee stings at a school in Scottsdale, and one child was hospitalized.

In early June, a Tucson man working outside his home in Oro Valley was stung over 2,000 times after entering his back yard shed. Golder Ranch Fire District Battalion Chief Will Seeley was on site and said the hive estimated 50,000 bees. “I’ve never heard or seen anything like that,” he added. “They were inside the walls and membranes of the shed.”

It is generally recommended to call a professional when removing any sizeable population of bees.

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