Killer Bees – How to Avoid Being Stung

Note: Bees are an essential and important part of life here are on Earth. So, even though they sting us and scare us…they are really important to life. Therefore, I know its hard…but try not to take your bee frustration out by killing bees.

“Is it a drone or is it bees?” I think to myself while hiking around Bartlett Lake. The consist buzzzzz sound is getting closer and is definitely above me.

I immediately stop in my tracks and look up. The wide open clear sky above, tells me it’s not a drone. I shift my eyes down lower and see a swarm of them flying along the saguaro cactuses like a storm cloud with purpose.

In Arizona, we have killer bees and yes, unfortunately some hikers have died to being attacked.

These killer bees are actually a hybrid species known as Africanized Honey Bees. And while they play a vital role in nature, they also get extremely pissed if you mess with their nest.

Something as innoscent as walking too close to their nests or even vibrations on the ground can cause them to pissy.

Now, I will say, coming across killer bees while hiking is rare.

I mean, it happens… you’ll hear and see them…but it’s not a daily occurrence where hikers are running for their lives from killer bees. But in the slight chance this happens to you, it’s important to know what to do.

Typically they are most active during March to October. So yea…9 months out of year. Seeing as how these guys are out during most of our hiking time, it’s important to take some precautions first.


  • Wear light colored clothing (this also helps with keeping cool from the sun…bonus!)
  • Do not wear anything that has a fragrance (perfume, sunscreen, cologne). Be sure to wear unscented stuff.
  • Listen for their buzzing noise

If Attacked

  • Run.

Running is really the only option. Luckily, a healthy person can outrun a bee….or let me correct that…a swarm of bees. Those flying bastards can’t move as fast as us…and they get tired after about a half mile or so. So that’s really, about 5-7 minutes of running for us. (unless you’re a super fast runner at which case, I am completely jealous of you.)

When they are pissed and trying to attack they are more likely to focus on stinging your beautiful face. They tend to aim for areas were carbon dioxide is present. For this reason, you may want to cover your face, either with a shirt or hat while running away.

And contrary to popular belief (thanks to the 1991 classic movie “My Girl) jumping into water….does NOT…I repeat does NOT get the bees away.

In fact, if you jump into water, you know what those pissed off flying bees do? They hover above the water and will wait until you emerge. As soon as you poke your head out to take in some air….their stingers will be stinging away at your face. 

So, just run.

Running is our best defense.

If You Are Stung

Go to a Doctor if:

  • You are stung 30 or more times
  • Rapid or slow heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing and/or swallowing

General Bee Sting Care – Traditional Edition

  • Scrape the stinger off
  • Wash the area
  • Apply a topical antibiotic
  • Apply ice to soothe pain

General Bee Sting Care – Home Remedy Edition

(Science won’t admit these work…but c’mon…we’ve all tried one of these options…and they’ve work)

If applied on the sore, one of these home remedy products might do the trick in taking away the pain and healing.

  • Mud – get a big ol’ handful of mud and place it on the sore.
  • Onion – cut it and then apply the inner, wet part to sore.
  • Honey – dap on a small amount and let sit for an hour. (Who knew the bees would make the antidote for their own sting?)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar –  soak the sore for about 15 minutes or so, then cover with bandaid.
  • Toothpaste – will work with bees….but NOT wasps. No clue why!

Regardless, if you’ve been bitten a few times and these remedies don’t do the trick…you still will be fine. In a week or so, you will have forgotten all about the sting.

As I look out at that swarm of bees flying around Lake Bartlett I’m lucky that I’m just a bystander and the bees haven’t even taken notice of my presence. I pull out my camera to record this moment, because it feels like I’m capturing a big foot moment. I mean….who has ever seen a swarm of bees this big right?!

Swarm of bees at Bartlett Lake

I continue hiking around and eventually the bees leave the big swarm cloud one by one and scatter across the Phoenix desert, hitting up the numerous wildflowers that are blooming with the warming sunlight.

All is right with the world once again…as long as no one pisses them off.

One comment

  1. Love your blog on africanized bees. You seem to know about bees very well. 😉 Never seen them, only the apis meliffera, swarms of them up here in the Sierra Foothills, naturally, but never the apis meliffera scutelettas. One day they may be on the swarms to inhabit in Amador County. P.S.- I figured out already, mud, is one way to relieve a bee sting. Keep on buzzing!

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