A contract bulldozer operator working for AEP Texas was clearing right of way near Marathon, TX, when he was attacked by a swarm of bees. The employee was air lifted to a hospital in Lubbock, TX and is on life support at this time. Please keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.
Bees continue to be a problem across all of our service territories. They become extremely aggressive when disturbed, especially by loud vibrating equipment such as bulldozers, digger derricks, bucket trucks, ditch witches, etc. Awareness is key in detecting these swarms before we begin our work.
BEES are nature’s pollinators! The honeybee provides us a very sweet food item. Unfortunately, most bees also pack an item called a stinger and when provoked, can inflict harm and pain to anything it stings. While some variety of bees can loose their stinger on the first sting, and maybe leave it in the victim, others can actually sting multiple times. A venom is actually ‘injected’ with these stings and causes an allergic reaction that varies from minor to life threatening. It is best to avoid bees and there are many proactive practices we can take to help protect ourselves:
- Be alert for areas that bees use for nesting. Cracks in a wall, holes in a meter box, evenholes in the ground are used. Bee activity is at its highest level during the day and beescan be seen coming in and out. Other nests, such as some wasps and hornets, are mud orpaper looking structures that can be seen hanging on flat surfaces.
- Consider the type of hair shampoo, deodorant, cologne, etc. you might normally use. Beesare attracted to odors, both pleasant and unpleasant- what do you think gets them to allthose flowers? Floral or citrus odors are especially inviting.
- Most ‘bee experts’ will tell you that light colored clothing is usually best. Bees can beattracted to dark colors.
- If you find that you are being attacked, many times a ‘swat’ is all it takes, but you need to beaware that some bees, such as a yellow jacket, can sting multiple times. If the nest isthreatened, bees can attack in swarms, especially the Africanized bee. Cover yourself withanything available especially your head and face, even with your hands and arms. Movequickly away from the area, seeking shelter if available.
And a word about the Africanized Honey Bee:
If you work outdoors, you’ve probably had an encounter with bees or wasps. Unless you are allergic to bee stings, getting stung is usually not a big deal. However, workers living in the southern United States should be made aware of the threat posed by aggressive Africanized Honey Bees.
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has issued an alert in light of increasing numbers of attacks on people in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida and Texas.
“Although the sting from an Africanized Honey Bee is no more harmful than one from the common garden bee, they are known as the killer bees because they defend their nests more aggressively, attack with less provocation, and in larger numbers,” says the ASSE.
So, what can we do about it?
- Be alert to buzzing in the environment, which may indicate a nest of bees.
- Be alert when engaged in all outdoor activities.
- Use care when entering sheds or outbuildings where bees may nest.
- Examine work areas before using power equipment such as chainsaws, lawnmowers or weed cutters. Noise from these tools can excite and alarm bees.
- If you are sensitive to bee stings, talk to your doctor about kits and procedures that can save your life if you’re stung.
- Look regularly for bee colonies and if you find one, contact your foreman and customer.
- Don’t try to remove or kill colonies yourself with pest sprays.
- Avoid wearing scents while outside and wear light-colored clothing.
- If attacked, move as quickly as possible to a safe sheltered area (building or car).
- Protect your face and neck.
- If you believe your work locations could be exposed to Africanized Honey Bees, perform a risk assessment, as in any other work task. If necessary have protective clothing such as veils, hats, gloves or a full-length bee suit available.
First Aid for Bee Stings
- If stung by a bee, remove the stinger by scrapping the area with a blunt-edged device or tool; do not use tweezers. Using tweezers or pinching may introduce more venom into the wound.
- Bee stings will cause redness, swelling, itch, and pain. Ice can be used to reduce swelling and an ‘itch’ cream can be used to help alleviate the itch.
- If multiple stings occur, or signs of allergic reaction, beyond the minimum described above, medical attention needs to be sought.
- Consult with your doctor if you are susceptible to allergic reactions and inquire about an Epi-kit. If prescribed, carry it with you at all times and consider a back-up one just in case. Let your co-workers know about possible allergic reactions.