Some ecotypes of the honey bee, Apis mellifera L., show excessive levels of colony defense that have occasionally resulted in human and animal deaths. In cases where death has occurred, the victim, animal or human, has often been confined or panicked into an area from which it cannot escape. Our study was done to evaluate the use of repellents to reduce the severity of the stinging during accidental disturbances of excessively defensive colonies. Three mosquito repellents (diethyl-meta-toluamide, 2-ethyl-1,3-hexandiol, and dimethyl phthlate) and 2 odiferous compounds known to be repellent to honey bees (benzaldehyde and menthol) were tested in European (Texas) and Africanized (Mexico) apiaries by victims in protective clothing. When sprayed as an aerosol at the defending worker bees, all the compounds significantly reduced the number of bees around the victim and the number of stings in a patch of suede exposed during the test. DEET was consistently the most effective repellent. A number of materials could be developed as repellents for emergency use by individuals that are at high risk of encountering wild honey bee colonies in the course of their daily activity.
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