Often when homeowners stumble upon a beehive, it's not happiness they feel. The widespread fear that an Africanized swarm in full attack mode could kill a person is not that far-fetched if circumstances are right.
Prescott Valley Utilities Director Neil Wadsworth explained that the town received an average of 200 bee calls last year, and this year so far has tallied 150 calls. The busiest call times are between March and September.
"We contract with CH2MHill OMI and they run the water and wastewater system. Part of their operations contract is to handle the bee calls," Wadsworth said.
Handling those calls means the company eradicates them with a poison called Zen Kill.
Killing the bees that nest in water meters and swarm alarmingly around residences was not always a mandate, Wadsworth said.
About two years ago, the company tried a pilot program to relocate the bees.
"Some we relocated," he said, referencing the hives.
"Then we had an incident where one hive was in the process of being relocated, and a distance from that hive, another four or five houses down, (the move) agitated the other hive," he said.
The angry bees attacked and killed a neighbor's dog.
"At that point in time, we had to think...if that had been a small child or somebody who couldn't handle that kind of attack, not that most of us could, what does that bring up?
"That incident was a wake up call for us. Now, our policy is to eradicate the bees," Wadsworth said.
Another pilot program notified homeowners by way of door hangers, if their water meters were compromised with bees. An option that was available, and still is, was calling a bee relocation service.
Out of the 70 incidents from that test program, only about five were successfully relocated, Wadsworth said.
Bees like damp, dark places. Unfortunately, water meter boxes seem to be a natural attraction to them, he said, adding that homeowners are welcome to call a service and relocate them.
There are several bee relocation services, including a handful in the Phoenix area that makes house calls in the quad-cities area.
Cliff Deane has been working with bees since he was a nine-year-old growing up in West Virginia. After a career in the Army, Deane went back to bee work and started his own company that offers bee relocation.
Deane and his wife operate Last Shadow Apiary near their home in Prescott Valley.
When asked how many times he's been stung, Deane laughed and said, "More than I like to think about."
He maintains the European honeybee colonies "gentles" the African bees by a process of breeding and integrating the Africanized honeybee into an existing non-Africanized colony. Currently, he's working with a transitional colony. "They make wonderful honey," Deane said.
"We do remove all kinds of honeybee swarms or hives, it's not a free service," Deane said.
They work not to kill the African bees but to rehabilitate them. He also mentioned that often, if a bee is foraging - taking nectar from a flower - it typically won't attack.
To contact Last Shadow Apiary, call 928-910-3100. Other bee relocation services are Truly Nolen, 928-227-1021; and Bee Removal, 877-500-4684.