By William P. Thompson
A Portales pest control company official said a sample of bees found in Clovis “in the middle of town” has tested positive as being a strain of Africanized or “killer” bees.
Lewis Hightower, owner of Southwestern Pest Control, said the sample was tested at a U.S. Department of Agriculture facility in Maryland.
An educational meeting for the public is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Memorial Building in Portales.
Hightower said he will attend and urges concerned citizens to attend as well.
“I think it’s a public safety issue,” he said. “There are plenty of places (in Portales and Clovis) for these bees to make a home. There are plenty of places where they can find food and water.”
Hightower said there is no way to know how many of the Africanized bees are in the the area, or predict if they will be out in force this year, but now is the time for the public to become aware of the potential for harm.
“The hives we found last year were pioneer hives, the first wave of the bees (in the area),” he said. “The bees may be worse this year, or it may not be bad at all. The problem is, an adult can run away and might not get hurt too bad, but a small child might not be able to run away.”
Hightower said Africanized bees have been found in more than 20 New Mexico counties since 1993. This year could be an awakening for Roosevelt and Curry counties.
John Gentry is a part-time beekeeper in Portales. He likes the honey his bees produce.
“I’ve noticed that the flowers and plants are growing better because of the pollination,” Gentry said. “A beekeeper would be able to tell quickly if his bees were infested with Africanized bees. He would notice the aggression.”
Gentry said if he noticed aggression in his bees he would get a sample tested and if the sample were found to be Africanized he would move to dispose of his bees and start his hives over again.
Hightower said Bill Moyer, an employee of Southwestern Pest Control, will attend next week’s public meeting, and will bring a film recently shot of an attacking swarm of what Hightower expects are Africanized bees.
“He (Moyer) and another employee went to a hive (in northwestern Roosevelt County) in a rural area and purposefully made the bees attack to show what it’s like to be attacked by a swarm.”
Terry Teti of Community Resources, one of the organizers of next week’s meeting, said Moyer informed her that the film of the attacking swarm is intense, but Moyer said he wished he had kept filming the bees after he had made it safely inside his vehicle.
“The bees kept slamming into his windows after he was inside,” she said.
Hightower said Africanized bees often make homes in the eaves of houses and around water meters. He said he wouldn’t go within 100 yards of a hive of Africanized bees without donning full protective gear.