A Guide for Firefighters and Rescue Personnel
Conventional firefighting gear protects all areas of the body except the head and neck.
For full protection, veils must be adapted for use with appropriate headgear. Bee veils
are available from beekeeping supply houses. Mosquito veils are also acceptable and
can be obtained from military surplus and sporting goods stores. The veil may be further
sealed using duct tape. Tape should also be used around the wrists and ankles, or
anywhere else where there may be gaps in protective clothing. Heavy duty plastic,
rubber, or leather gloves are recommended.
Disposable hazmat suits such as those made of Chemrel R, Saranex R or Tyvek R,
provide good protection, especially if worn over street clothing or uniforms.
Bees are easily immobilized and killed by wetting agents (surfactants) - including
commercial liquid dishwashing detergent, non-foaming fire control chemicals and fire
fighting foams with surfactant characteristics such as the aqueous film-foams (AFFF).
Not all commercially available products have been tested, but most such wetting agents
should be equally effective. Original Palmolive dishwashing liquid, 9-55 R fire control
chemical, Silv-ex R foam concentrate and FC-600 Light Water brand ATC/AFFF have all
been tested and approved for use. A one percent solution was sufficient to immediately
immobilize honey bees and kill them quickly.
As with any chemical use, human and animal safety must be the most important
After arriving at a site, rescue personnel should first assess the situation from within
their vehicles. Then they should retreat several hundred yards, put on protective
clothing and move any onlookers to a safe distance.
For victim rescue, an adequate insect barrier must be established and honeybee alarm
pheromone must be neutralized. Fire and rescue units responding with standard fire
fighting equipment can quickly accomplish both objectives by using water plus a
non-toxic wetting agent.
Using standard firefighting procedures, set up a line capable of delivering a one to three
percent spray of foaming/wetting agent with a nozzle capable of delivering a wide fan
pattern. A light application to the victim will stop the attack by most of the bees on or
near the victim within 60 seconds. The bees will be immobilized and can be quickly
If an obvious line of insect flight can be determined, a vertical wall of spray 20 to 30 feet
in the air should intercept further flight activity. Alternatively, the nozzle can be inverted
near the victim to provide a curtain of safety.
Rescue workers wearing proper protective gear can then carry the victim into a house,
van or ambulance for treatment and transport. Protective gear must remain in place as
angry bees may follow.
In a house, bees will be attracted to the windows. They can be collected in a vacuum. In
a rescue vehicle, drive away and roll down the windows.
Once the victim is protected, remove stings as quickly as possible. Removing outer
garments may help as stings embedded through the fabric will be dislodged in the
The best way to remove stings is to scrape them away with a fingernail, credit card or
similar instrument. Never pinch, tweeze or otherwise attempt to pull the stingers out, as
more venom may be injected. The victim may be soothed by cold compresses.
Antihistamines or epinephrine may be administered by medical personnel.
Rescuers should launder all protective equipment to remove any remaining alarm
Fire and rescue personnel should familiarize themselves with normal activities of
stinging insects in their area. Local beekeepers can provide extremely valuable advice
and assistance. Fire and rescue personnel are advised to establish relationships with
the local beekeeping club to better strengthen their knowledge and skills in handling