Originally Published: September 16, 2011 9:55 p.m.
PRESCOTT - City officials Friday afternoon hired a beekeeper from Cottonwood in response to a complaint about a beehive inside a water meter box on Montana Drive.
The utilities division of the Public Works Department hired a beekeeper because city officials are sensitive about public concerns about exterminating bees, said Kim Kapin, the city's public relations director.
Kapin said the city takes responsibility because it owns an estimated 23,000 meter boxes in the city, adding that Swesey's Bees in Cottonwood plans to arrive on Montana Drive in a few days.
"We do live removals," beekeeper Michael Swesey said. "We will remove a majority of the bees and the honey and combs from the structure."
Swesey's services were retained after Montana Drive resident Jim Smerglia called the utilities division at least two times after detecting the beehive in the meter box on his street.
"It's been two and a half weeks now and no action," Smerglia said Friday afternoon. However, he expressed relief that the city is trying to get rid of the nuisance - and potential hazard.
"It's enough of a swarm where you can see them coming and going," Smerglia said. He added bees stung a man and the dog that he was walking on the street two weeks ago.
Smerglia's complaint about bees is the third report The Daily Courier has logged over the past two weeks. The Courier reported Thursday that DeWayne Spires, 49, of Dewey-Humboldt was recovering from bee stings that he endured this past Sunday while scouting for hunting season by a cattle tank off Orme Road near Mayer. That incident came three days after bees attacked three men in Wilhoit while they worked on a house; one of the men died.
Smerglia expressed concern for the safety of children.
"I can see it as a danger to the people that are out here and walking by," Smerglia said. He added he noticed Friday that someone had tried to place a rock on the meter box.
Swesey advises avoiding any contact with bees.
"If you see them, just note where they are (and) call a professional," he said. "If you try to do it yourself, you don't know if they are Africanized."
Bees are more likely to attack people if they are the descendants of the African strain that escaped from a breeder in Brazil in 1957 and arrived in the United States in the early 1990s.
As many as 60 percent of the Africanized bees will leave their hive if they get startled, Swesey said. The average hive holds 80,000 bees.
Swesey said he will not know whether they are Africanized until he arrives. He said he uses a vacuum to suck up the bees and places them in a hive box for transport.
If bees are Africanized, they are "so aggressive and it is not worth our time" to save the hive, said Ann Lamon, a beekeeper with husband Alan in Ash Fork.