SANTA CLARA – Firefighters and police responded to a call of “killer bees” in a water meter box on Serenity Lane in Santa Clara Thursday morning. The colony of bees was found around 10:30 a.m. by a city worker who was checking the meter.
“He opened it and the bees flew out,” Santa Clara Fire Chief Dan Nelson said, “but he did not get stung.”
Both the Santa Clara Fire and Santa Clara-Ivins Police departments responded to the call. A small colony of bees, with a queen, had taken up residence in the meter box, Nelson said.
“Typically, the Africanized variety lives in the ground, meter boxes and things,” Nelson said, “and they are a little more aggressive.”
Africanized bees arrived in Washington County in 2009, Washington County Bee Inspector Casey Lofthouse said in a previous interview. Feral swarms now have a good chance of being Africanized and should be treated with caution.
“Rather than take chances with kids in the neighborhood, we just destroyed the bees,” Nelson said.
Firefighters used a soapy water foam generated by the firetruck to destroy the bees. A small honeycomb was removed from the utility box, complete with larvae and honey.
The Fire Department would rather not destroy any bees, Nelson said.
“We’d rather a beekeeper come, but there wasn’t one available,” he said.
Fire departments keep a list of available beekeepers who can come out and remove colonies or swarms.
“I’m a beekeeper; I hate killing bees,” Nelson said.
Because the colony was small and new, it was less aggressive than it could have been, Nelson said. The colony just didn’t have many bees yet.
While Nelson said he believes the bees were Africanized, there’s no way to tell for sure without a genetic test, and he encourages people to use caution.
There are two types of “swarms,” Lofthouse said: established colonies and reproductive swarms. Established bee colonies can be much more dangerous than reproductive swarms, as bees will mount a strong defense of their home. When established colonies are disturbed or threatened, they will attack anything perceived as a threat, Lofthouse said.
Reproductive swarms can be quite alarming because they can contain thousands of bees, often in a ball or cluster. However, these swarms are generally quite docile, Lofthouse said.
If residents have any concerns about bees, or see bees coming in and out of a structure, they are encouraged to call their local fire department.
“If they give us a call, we’ll take care of them,” Nelson said.
Generally, a beekeeper will be called to remove the bees, if possible.
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