A swarm of bees found Tuesday at Putnam City High School could be Africanized honey bees, an Oklahoma State University professor said.
The discovery of the bees caused a freshman baseball game to be canceled and a softball game to be moved to another school, Putnam City Public Schools spokesman Steve Lindley said.
The bees were at the high school baseball and softball fields. No students were injured, though several staff members were stung. The bees were killed by an exterminator. Students were kept away from the field Wednesday.
Oklahoma State University entomologist Phillip Mulder said the bees could be Africanized honey bees, which were first found in Oklahoma in 2004 and in Oklahoma County in 2005. He said school officials were correct to be cautious.
“It's a good idea for people to presume they are dealing with Africanized bees in counties where they are known to exist,” he said.
Africanized honey bees are the result of cross breeding between African honey bees and European honey bees in South America in the late 1950s. Mulder said the goal was to produce a bee that could be competitive and produce honey in a tropical environment. Eventually there was an accidental release of about 20 queens.
“And they've been moving this way ever since,” Mulder said.
About the bees
Africanized honey bees are known to be more forceful in defending their hives but are not necessarily more aggressive than other honey bees away from their hives or swarms.
“Africanized honey bees will defend their colony because that's where their livelihood exists,” he said. “Studies have shown they are six times more aggressive than European honey bees. They will chase you further and will attack in more numbers and with more vigor.”
But the term killer bees is a misnomer, Mulder said. Like their European cousins, Africanized bees only have one stinger and die after using it. Their venom is no more or less toxic than that of other bees.
Mulder said he is not aware of any deaths caused by Africanized honey bees in Oklahoma. There were some hospitalizations when the bees were first found in Jackson and Tillman counties.
Most swarms are made up of 2,000 to 6,000 bees. A colony can contain up to 60,000 bees. When people encounter a swarm or colony at their home, they should call a professional exterminator, Mulder said.
“Don't throw things at the swarm, and don't take noisy equipment like lawn mowers or chain saws around it,” he said. “If they begin to attack and you run, don't jump into a pond, because they will wait for you. The best thing to do is be cautious and get inside as fast as you can.”