**Tucson, AZ — BEES ATTACK SEVEN WORKERS ON ROOF — **Africanized bees stung seven workers at an eastside store at least a dozen times each yesterday, in the first major bee attack of the year. The attack marks the beginning of a prime season for encountering the super-defensive Africanized honeybees, some experts say. The laborers were working on the roof at the Albertson’s supermarket at East 22nd Street and South Wilmot Road when the bees struck shortly after 10 a.m. “We’re definitely in swarming season right now, especially for Africanized honeybees,” said Tom Martin, owner and president of AAA Africanized Bee Removal Specialists in Tucson. The southeast side seems to have the largest local population of Africanized bees, he added. Two of the roofers were stung 50 times each, mostly on the face, neck and head, said Tucson Fire Department spokesman Capt. Joe Gulotta. Six of the seven workers, who ranged from 24 to 54 years old, were taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital. All were expected to recover, fire officials said. “One minute I was tearing off the roof and the next it seemed like everywhere I looked there were bees,” said 50-year-old Michael Barrett, who was stung about 20 times, mostly on his face, head and arms. Said Creighton Allen, 39, “One started attacking me and I didn’t pay no mind. But then they covered me.” He said he was so frightened by the attack that he jumped 20 feet from the roof to a lower ledge, and then jumped from the ledge to the ground to escape the bees. “I couldn’t get down the ladder. I’ve never seen that many bees in my life. It was like out of a movie or something.” As Allen spoke, another bee climbed out of his clothing and began flying around him. “I am not coming back to this job, that’s for sure,” Allen said, as he ran from the rogue bee. The six men and one woman who were stung are employed by Labor Express Inc., 3860 S. Palo Verde Road. “I’m still in pain,” Barrett said later. Steven Thoenes, president of Beemaster Inc. in Tucson, identified the bees involved in yesterday’s attack as Africanized. He estimated there were 30,000 to 35,000 bees in the colony. Firefighters found the bees’ nest in a fenced-in area next to the grocery store, where the roofers had thrown some debris. A Bobcat tractor, operated by one of the workers, had been removing the debris from the nesting area. The Tucson Fire Department killed the bees with a foamy soap and water mixture and uncovered four large pallettes of honeycomb. “We don’t want to go and arbitrarily kill bees, but when they are aggressively attacking people we need to take care of them, and this is certainly an aggressive hive,” Gulotta said. Africanized bees, a tropical variety, migrated into the United States from Mexico in 1990. They hit Arizona in 1993 and have been blamed for the deaths of four people in the state, including one Pima County man, as well as the deaths of several pets. The bees become aggressive with much less provocation than their European honeybee cousins. “Typically at this time of year a European colony would not be aggressive,” said Martin, a former commercial beekeeper and researcher at the federal Carl Hayden Bee Research Lab. “Research has shown that the (Africanized) venom is slightly more toxic, but the real threat in encountering them is that while the European bees send three or four guard bees to sting an intruder, an Africanized colony would send out 300 to 400 to sting,” Martin said. “It happens very quickly - within a matter of seconds.” While Tucson beekeepers continue to use European bees for honey production, more than 95 percent of the city’s feral bee population is Africanized, according to bee removal specialists. Thoenes, who ran the state’s now-defunct Africanized Bee Program in the early 1990s, said the number of Africanized bees here has ballooned since 1994. Paramedics tend workers Michael Barrett, left, and Creighton Allen. “We have thousands and thousands of colonies now in Tucson,” he said. Thoenes said most serious Africanized bee attacks occur in April and October, when the colonies are at their peak size. The colonies build and then divide in half, he explained. He said Tucson now has 33 companies that specialize in bee removal. “We are doing more than 3,000 jobs per year and it’s gone up to 97 or 98 percent Africanized,” Thoenes said. “The reproduction is getting worse and worse. Every year we are getting further behind the bees.” Thoenes stressed that Africanized bees attack only when they are disturbed. “Their evolutionary force is predators. Only the mean ones survived. But they don’t search for targets,” he said. Africanized bees flourish in tropical areas, and are rarely found in barren desert areas. But in the city, where plants from the southern hemisphere bloom and food and water are available, the bees have a high reproductive rate, he said. (Stephanie Innes, The Arizona Daily Star, 3/14/00).
3000 jobs per year at $150-$500 dollars a whack.