Return to Main Menu
MUSC tree home to colony of honey bees
swarm of honey bees found a breezy, cooler refuge on the branch of a
tree planted behind the Education Center/Library Building and next to
the ambulance entrance to the Main Hospital ED on June 9.
Hundreds of honey
bees swarm in a tree behind the Education Center/Library Building.
Within a few hours, the bee hive had grown to the size of about two or
three footballs, and the University’s Public Safety Department had
deployed officers to divert pedestrian traffic away from the mass of
bees. By 5 p.m., Public Safety had cordoned off the area with yellow
crime tape and blocked the sidewalks with orange barrier cones.
The next morning, the tree was empty and the bees were gone, except for
a few stragglers, said Lt. Fred Wanner, a Public Safety Department
“The guys on the night shift told me that the honey bees left on their
own accord,” Wanner said. “They just took off.”
Wanner said Public Safety will keep tabs on the few that remain in the
area and tree.
While honey bees (Apis mellifera) generally are not aggressive, except
when they sense a threat to the nest, their sting can be particularly
“The honey bee’s barbed sting cannot be withdrawn by the insect once it
has penetrated the skin,” according to an online report written by
Malcolm T. Sanford, Ph.D., an entomology professor with the University
of Florida. “The bee’s only means of escape is to tear away part of its
abdomen leaving behind the sting with its venom sac attached. The
muscles of the sting apparatus continue to pulsate after the bee has
flown away, driving the sting deeper into the skin and injecting more
venom. For this reason the sting apparatus should be scraped (not
pulled) out of the skin as soon as possible after a sting is received.”
Pfc. Terrance Major, officer Layne Thompson and Lt. Oneida Banks cordon
off the area around a nest of honey bees.
One percent of the human population is allergic to bee stings,
according to the Clemson University Agricultural Extension
A bee sting is always potentially serious, though the severity and
duration of a reaction can vary from one person to another, Sanford
said. Most persons experience a local non-serious allergic reaction to
bee venom. However, depending on the location and number of bee stings
received, as well as the present possibility of a severe allergic
Honey bee removal and relocation should be performed by a licensed
Meanwhile, the honey bee is our most beneficial insect. They are
critical in the pollinations of many of fruits and vegetables. In the
western United States, honey bees are threatened by the colony collapse
syndrome, which is killing billions of precious bees and threatening
vast agricultural resources. Clemson is part of a study to determine
what is killing honey bees.
Honey bees will defend themselves or their colony if threatened. Don’t
disturb a bee colony. If you encounter bees, simply walk away slowly
without swatting at the bees, which will irritate them. If under attack
by bees, cover your head with your shirt and run quickly through dense
vegetation or seek shelter in a vehicle or building. (A mature honey
bee colony contains 20,000 to 100,000 bees, depending on the season.
The population will peak from late spring to summer and reach a low
point in winter.)
Honey bee swarming season normally occurs in South Carolina during the
months of May and June, with a few exceptions. During this period,
swarms may enter the walls of structures and become a pest problem.
Identifying different bees
Honey bees vary in color from yellow to black, have black or brown
bands across the abdomen and are much smaller than a carpenter bee.
Honey bees are about 2/3-inch long and covered with hairs or setae. The
foraging honey bees have pollen baskets on each hind leg, which will
often be loaded with a ball of yellow or dark green pollen. The honey
bee is the only stinging insect that can normally winter over as a
colony inside the wall of a structure in South Carolina.
The carpenter bee can be identified by having bright yellow, orange or
white hairs on the thorax (chest region) and a black shiny abdomen on
the dorsal side. Carpenter bees are robust, heavy-bodied bees that
range from ¾ to 1-inch in length. These insects bore
½-inch diameter holes that appear to be perfectly round on
exterior wooden surfaces.
Yellow jackets lack the dense body hairs that are found on carpenter
bees and honey bees. Yellow jackets do not have the pollen baskets on
the hind legs. The yellow jacket is about ½ inch long, and the
abdomen is characterized by having alternating yellow and black stripes.
For information, contact the Clemson Extension Service at (888)
656-9988; or go to
Friday, June 13, 2008
Catalyst Online is published weekly,
as needed and improved from time to time by the MUSC Office of Public
for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of
Carolina. Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at
or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Editorial copy can be submitted to
Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to
email@example.com. To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island
Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.