A Simple Question with a Complex Answer

At Viking Pest Control, we are often asked about bees.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of bees to our world: bees play a critical role in the world’s ecology and are responsible for fertilizing the majority of the world’s food crops.  However, bees are in jeopardy; the world bee population has been in continuous decline, which actively threatens our food crops. Furthermore, bees generally do not present a hazard to people and, whenever possible, bee infestations or hives should be moved or relocated rather than eradicated because of the declining bee population.  That said, there are two particular instances where the risk from bee sting is unacceptably high.

Africanized honey bees.

Africanized honey bees are a hybrid between African honey bees and several types of European honey bees.  Intentionally introduced in Brazil in an effort to boost honey production, these bees have steadily migrated north and are present in many parts of North America, including the United States.  They are far more aggressive than other types of honey bees, and tend to attack in swarms.  Over 1,000 humans have been killed by these types of bees, who have also been implicated in the deaths of livestock.  While these “killer bees” are frightening and are now present throughout the American southwest, they are not a problem in New Jersey or the tri-state area.  In fact, while they have been able to out-compete European honeybees in tropical climates, it is not believed that they can out-compete European honeybees in colder climates, so they are not expected to become a large problem in the Northeast, though one may see isolated groups of these bees as they continue to migrate north.

Bee allergies.

While European honeybees, which are prevalent in New Jersey and the surrounding states, do not present a health hazard to most people, their stings can be dangerous.  First, bee stings can be seriously harmful and even fatal to infants, the elderly, the immune compromised, and to any person who receives multiple stings at the same time.  However, the most at-risk group is composed of people with known or suspected allergies to bee stings.   In bee-allergic people, a simple bee sting can be enough to bring on anaphylactic shock, which results in constricted airways and can lead to death by suffocation.   Anyone with a suspected bee allergy should consult with a doctor and carry an Epinephrine injection pen with them at all times.


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