Exterminators destroy hive of killer bees in Cedar City

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CEDAR CITY -- Exterminators went after Africanized honeybees Wednesday in Cedar City. It's the first time we know of in Utah that so-called "killer bees" have set up a colony at somebody's house.

Except for their behavior, Africanized bees are almost identical to regular honeybees; their venom is the same. But when they're riled up, they sometimes sting by the hundreds or even thousands.

Oral Covington had a front row seat for years, watching the bees from his bedroom. He tried to eradicate the hive but never could. "Always thought they were honeybees, so I wasn't too concerned," he said.

Wednesday, he showed us where the hive was located. "It's actually inside the soffit, that's where they're going in, where they're all congregating over there," he explained.

We suited up with the exterminators, and they began by spraying with insecticide. Experts had not expected Africanized bees this far north, but they evidently found warmth in the Covington's eaves.

"If they were outside building, a colony in a tree or somewhere else, we don't believe they would survive the winter," said Larry Lewis, of the Utah Department of Agriculture.

Spreading from South America over the last 50 years, the bees have killed about 1,000 people. "But people have learned to be aware, to be cautious. But people have learned to live with them, and I think we will be able to do that too," Lewis said.

The hyper-defensive behavior these bees exhibit is often triggered by a predator's hot breath. "They want to sting and kill that threat. They think it's a threat to them, and they're trying to get rid of it," explained Dave Kipp, of Morgan Pest Control.

The eaves were packed with blackened honeycombs and tens of thousands of bees, but the colony, dripping with honey, was destroyed without incident. Most of the bees were pussycats.

"So, it's not a full-blown killer bee hive, but there's quite a few killer bees in it," Kipp said.

They got about 150 pounds of honeycomb and honey out of there, and not a single person reported a bee sting Wednesday, or in the three or four years the hive has been there.

E-mail: jhollenhorst@ksl.com


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