Africanized bees, known popularly as killer bees, were first seen in the Bay Area last fall when a colony was identified in Lafayette. Up until this week, there had been no reports of problems with the bees, but on Friday, a beekeeper and a postal worker were stung, and there were unconfirmed reports of two dogs being killed.

There’s no question that Africanized bees can be aggressive. The bees, a cross between the Western honey bee and the African honey bee, have a sting that is no worse than the one an average honeybee delivers. What’s difference is their determination to sting once provoked.

Honeybees are fierce defenders of their hives, but the Africanized bee will pursue those who they believe are threatening the hive, with dozens of bees stinging the victim. It’s the accumulation of stings that can be fatal in those with an allergy to bees, or those already in poor health.

There are few deaths associated with the bees — probably far fewer than deaths from allergic reaction to common bee stings.

If you come across the Africanized bees, here are some things to do to minimize being stung.

Africanized bees often build nests underground, so before doing any yard work, look for signs of a hive. Africanized bees will have several sentry bees swarming around the nest.

Jumping into water works against wasps, but not against Africanized bees. They just wait for you to come up for air, and start stinging again.

Contact Joan Morris at . Follow her at . Read more of her Animal Life columns at .

blog comments powered by Disqus