By Verena Lin my paper Thursday, Nov 17, 2011
When attacked by a swarm of bees, like what 38 staff members and students at Ngee Ann Polytechnic experienced yesterday, the best thing to do is to run as fast as you can.
That is the advice from Mr Thomas Fernandez, chairman and chief executive of PestBusters.
“It depends on how agitated the bees are. They may chase you for 100m, (then) go away after that,” he said.
He also explained that flailing your arms in the air will irritate the bees further, and cause them to send a signal for the rest of the swarm to join the attack.
And if there is a bee in the house at night, Mr Fernandez advised that the lights be switched off.
“Do not shine a torch at any hive, because that will make the bees come to you,” he said.
Dr Malcolm Mahadevan, head and senior consultant of the Emergency Medical Department at National University Hospital, said that bees are also attracted to noise and even certain perfumes.
While bee stings can be deadly for small animals, they are usually mild for humans. The severity of a bee sting may also depend on one’s weight and sensitivity to stings.
Only female bees have stingers and, unlike hornets, a bee can sting only once, leaving its stinger on the victim’s skin.
Visible stingers should be removed with a pincer within one minute of the victim being stung, followed by an application of ice to alleviate the swelling.
Said Mr Fernandez: “Do not press it, because the stinger is like a little bag and it will burst.”
Victims who get stung multiple times should seek medical help immediately, especially if they experience dizziness, shortness of breath, or an allergic reaction, advised Dr Mahadevan.
Although bees seem predatory, they attack only when provoked. Professor Rudolf Meier from the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore explained that there are “only a few” social bees – that form large colonies – which may react aggressively when their nest is disturbed.
“There are about 60 species of bees in Singapore. many are solitary and perfectly harmless,” said Prof Meier.
Two common types here that sting are the Malayan Wild Bee and the Eastern Honey Bee.
Mr Fernandez said: “The tropical climate here also creates a conducive environment for nesting.” He added that bees can create hives anywhere, with many commonly found in attics, trees and the underside of expressways.
As for the Ngee Ann Polytechnic incident yesterday, a 1m- long hive was found in a tree near the field where the attack occurred. Two extermination professionals were needed to clear the hive.
Clad from top-to-toe in a protective suit, one of them, Mr Panir, told my paper that he sprayed an oil-based chemical on the hive to kill the bees inside and break it apart.
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