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A swarm of bees congregated in a limb of a tree in front of Carl's Jr. Restaurant on Main Street near 9th Avenue last Thursday afternoon. It was unknown whether the bees were common European bees or the more aggressive Africanized variety.

Africanized bees kill three dogs

Staff Writer

(Updated Tuesday, May 15, 2007 at 12:08 p.m.)

Africanized bees swarmed and killed three dogs last week, including a 100-pound female mastiff.

The bees, also known as "killer bees," are hybrids of the African honeybee and more docile European breeds. On Monday, May 7, a hive of Africanized bees killed three mastiffs at a Hesperia residence near the intersection of Pinon Avenue and Manzanita Street, just two blocks south of Bear Valley Road.

"The female [mastiff], she was well over 100 pounds," Hesperia Animal Control Supervisor Tony Genovesi said Monday. A 90-pound male dog and a 20-pound puppy were also swarmed and killed. The dogs' owner was also stung several times trying to save them, according to a release issued by the city on Tuesday.

San Bernardino County Vector Control identified the bees as Africanized honeybees.

"The difference with people versus animals, obviously, is that these animals were chained and didn't have the chance to run away," Genovese said. "Even if they were in a yard, there obviously may not be enough room to run away, because the key is to get as much distance between you and the hive."

The hive of Africanized bees was located in a hollow stucco wall of a home.

"Apparently, a branch from a tree branch broke and fell right where the hive is, and that's what was stirring them up," Genovesi said. "This is the first [swarm] that I've heard of that's actually killed animals like this, but I know we've dealt with other hives before. A few people in the neighborhood would get stung ... but it was not a massive swarm like this."

African bees were originally brought to the western hemisphere because they can better tolerate warmer climates than European breeds and because they produce more honey. Since 26 Tanzanian queen bees were accidentally released into the wild in Brazil in 1957, Africanized bees have been interbreeding with other bees, and the more aggressive, more likely to swarm new breed has been spreading northward ever since.

"If you have the hive, don't attempt to take care of it yourself. You need to have someone who knows what they're doing," Genovesi said. Assume "every colony is Africanized. It's an assumption on safety, because we know they're already here.

"If you have a hive at your house, you don't want it there. It's very dangerous to have. Obviously, if they were able to kill over a 100 pound animal, and you [had] a child, that's a real danger there."

San Bernardino County Vector Control suggests the following general precautions:

* Stay away from all honeybee swarms and colonies. If bees are encountered, get away quickly. Try to protect your face and eyes. Take shelter in a car or building. Water or thick brush does not offer enough protection. Do not stand and swat at bees; rapid motions will cause them to sting.

* Use care when entering sheds or outbuildings where bees may nest.

* Examine areas before tying up or penning pets or livestock. Listen for buzzing indicating a nest or swarm of bees.

* Be alert when participating in all outdoor sports and activities.

* Don't disturb a nest or swarm: Contact a pest control company or an emergency response organization.

* Teach children to be cautious and respectful of all bees.

* Develop a safety plan for your home and yard.

* Remove possible nesting sites around your home and yard.

* Inspect outside walls and eaves of home and outbuildings.

* Seal openings larger that 1/8" in walls, around chimneys and plumbing.

* Install fine screens (1/8" hardware cloth) over tops of rainspouts, vents and openings in water meter/utility boxes.

Residents who see a bee hive on their property are advised to call an exterminator to remove it, except in the case of a bee attack, when the San Bernardino County Fire Department should be contacted via 911. For other animal attacks, contact Hesperia Animal Control at 760-1707.

"I've been stung by one bee at a time, and it hurts," Genovesi said. "I could not imagine hundreds of them."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.

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