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Bee bodies bring local befuddlement

Posted: April 13, 2012 8:55 p.m.
Updated: April 13, 2012 8:55 p.m.
Rusty Willoughby shows Thursday one of the several dozen bees that turned up on the deck of her Canyon Country apartment. Rusty Willoughby shows Thursday one of the several dozen bees that turned up on the deck of her Canyon Country apartment.
Rusty Willoughby shows Thursday one of the several dozen bees that turned up on the deck of her Canyon Country apartment.
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During the spring, people expect to hear the buzz of bees as the busy little insects search for nectar.

They’re not likely to expect to find dozens of dead bees scattered over their patios and around their homes.

But that’s what’s been happening to a retired Canyon Country couple for the past eight days.
Rusty and Lee Willoughby — who live in the Canyon Country Villa apartments off Isabella Parkway — say they never see live bees buzzing about, so they don’t understand why their patio is now full of dead ones.

“It’s just a mystery,” Rusty Willoughby said Thursday. She said dead bees were still appearing Friday, despite the rain falling throughout Southern California.

She and her downstairs neighbor, Nick Lamprakes, have been sweeping their patios free of dead bees nearly every day, but more keep appearing. The die-off started April 6.

Lamprakes is concerned about the number of bees because he’s severely allergic to bee venom, and a bee stepped on can still cause a sting. He said the bees fall, then walk around in a circle before they die.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures Department said the bee die-off could be for a number of reasons, but bee experts don’t consider large die-offs unusual.


“It could be any number of things,” spokesman Ken Pellman said. “When they’re going to a new place, they could easily die off because they don’t have the food storage at the hive.”

The average bee lives only about six to eight weeks, said Inspector Ariel Verayo of Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures.

One of the biggest causes of death for bees is pesticides, but bees also die because of diseases, stress, malnutrition and predators.

During the past four decades, the number of bees has decreased by about 30 percent due to colony collapse disorder, characterized by the unexplained disappearance of a hive’s worker bees.

Verayo said he could not give a cause to the die-off at the Canyon Country apartments without further information.
Many of the wild bees in Los Angeles County are Africanized honeybees, which are more aggressive than European honeybees, Verayo said. Despite their aggression, people can learn to live with them, he said.

“(The bee is) the only insect that helps produce food for humans,” Verayo said. “That’s why we have to learn to live with them.”

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