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Wet winter leads to more bee swarms across San Diego

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LA JOLLA, Calif. – In the last month, four people were sent to the hospital after they were caught in large bee swarms. A bee expert warns the insect population is on the rise and the California Super Bloom could have been a factor.

Carly Danney was stung more than 150 times on Tuesday when she and her infant son were caught in the middle of a swarm on Poblado Road in Rancho Bernardo.

A man was doing yard work near his Ramona home when he was attacked Wednesday.

Two women encountered a hive in Mission Trails Park at the beginning of May and suffered bee stings.

University of California San Diego Professor of Biology Dr. James Nieh has studied bees for 20 years.  He said San Diego will see more bees this year due to the recent weather conditions.

“I think the answer is we’ve had great water this year,” said Dr. Nieh.  “Flower food equals more bees and I strongly suspect this is why we have a very active bee season.”

Dr. Nieh said this is also the time of year when bees swarm.

“Bee colonies reproduce and they swarm -- it’s very visible. It can cause 100s of 1000s of bees to hang out in a tree or on a wall,” said Nieh.

He said in this state bees are most protective.  He suspects Danney was close to a hive on Tuesday when she got caught in the swarm.  Nieh also said bees are the most attracted to hair, where Carly had said the first bee landed before she swatted it away.

“If that bee is alarmed and releases alarm pheromone or happens to sting your hair that’s a huge trigger for a colony to come and attack,” said Nieh.

In the case of the Rancho Bernardo swarm, neighbors told FOX 5 they suspect someone was either raising bees or had a hive in their backyard.

FOX 5 has not been able to confirm that information and calls to the homeowners association have not been returned.

Nieh said it’s important to remember bees don’t normally attack, instead they play a vital role in nature.  Bees pollinate one-third of agricultural growth. Without the insects we wouldn’t have some of our most nutritious produce.

“Things that have Vitamin A and Vitamin C -- fruits and vegetables are derived from bee pollination,” said Nieh.  “We have to remember how to live with them.  We’ve done it for 1000s of years and we can do it moving forward.”

Nieh said if you are caught in a hive, the best thing to do is not panic.

“Move away.  Meaning run away if you can from that area, you can run faster than a swarm and you can win," said Nieh.

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