Africanized honeybees are the gangsters of the bee world. They’re nasty, but Reed Booth isn’t intimidated. Known as the “Killer Bee Guy,” Booth has been removing hives for more than 20 years, and in that time, he’s become the local expert on Africanized bees. He’s also stockpiled a lot of honey.
If you’re ever in Southern Arizona and see something strange — perhaps a riding lawn mower that’s going around in circles with no one aboard — you can expect to see Reed Booth at any moment.
Better known as the “Killer Bee Guy,” Booth has been removing hives of Africanized bees for more than 20 years, and in that time, he’s received all sorts of frantic phone calls.
“A man’s out mowing and gets into a hive,” says Booth, who’s seen his share of “ghost” mowers. “He leaps off the mower and runs for the house. Or someone’s operating a backhoe or a weedwacker, or they’re just out walking. It doesn’t always take a lot to set the bees off. They’re agitated by noise, vibration and smell. They hate cologne. Old Spice, in particular, it seems like.”
Booth inadvertently stumbled into this curious career. He was a home brewer who made mead, or honey wine. A friend gave him a gunnysack of bees, and he began a self-education process. Pretty soon, he was removing killer bee hives for neighbors in his hometown of Bisbee. Word spread. Today, he does most of the killer bee removal for Cochise County and much of Southern Arizona.
“All wild honeybees in Arizona are now Africanized,” Booth says. “It’s a done deal. And with the average hive containing 40,000 to 60,000 bees, they’re not something to mess with. When I show up, I let everybody know I plan to make this as uninteresting as possible. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the goal.”
Excerpt from Arizona Highways