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Mottbusch Butte and Bees, AZ
mini location map2019-03-03
26 by photographer avatarFLYING_FLIVER
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Mottbusch Butte and Bees, AZ 
Mottbusch Butte and Bees, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 03 2019
Hiking5.79 Miles 1,062 AEG
Hiking5.79 Miles   5 Hrs   40 Mns   2.03 mph
1,062 ft AEG   2 Hrs   49 Mns Break
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The hike was done to locate a benchmark disk (and a Cairn BM) on Mottbusch Butte, in a remote area about 10 miles southwest of the Eagletail Mountains.
Mottbusch Butte is a stand-alone rise, surrounded by flat desert.
(The surveyors in 1950 called the Butte "Mottbusch" and named the disks Mottbusch - Topos call it "Nottbusch" - I'm still researching which name is correct)

The climb up and down was very slow, due to an abundance of cholla, scree and amazingly loose, fractured rock/boulders. Small, six foot high cliff bands were numerous, and made of fractured rock also. All the easier to break-off while climbing on them.

I eventually located all the things I wanted to locate and left the butte.

The remainder below is my bee encounter.
If you know all about the combo of Africanized bees and hiking, feel free to skip.
I had an encounter with a huge swarm of bees while just short of the Mottbusch Butte high point.

My disclaimer - I'm far from being a bee expert, but I recommend you read my bee encounter.
It may come in handy someday.

Awhile ago, I researched Africanized bees, and what to do if a swarm is near you, or upon you.
As I read the info, I tried to relate it to all of us hikers, since some of the normal "Tips" of what to do won't always apply to us hikers.

Experts estimate that more than 90 percent of honey bees in Arizona are the Africanized hybrid.

As mentioned, I was on the rocky ridge, approaching the high point, where the benchmark is located, when I heard a swarm of bees behind me. They were about 100 feet behind me, and the swarm was spinning around in their 'tornado' looking fashion, and were very noisy. The bee swarm was also gradually coming up the ridge behind me. When I reached the small top of the ridge, I noticed they were gaining on me, so I kept going. I went off the top on the other side, to a lower portion of the ridge and stopped.

Experts recommend you run as fast as you can, knowing Africanized bees will follow for easily 1/4 of a mile (normal, indigenous bees may follow you only 50 to 100 feet). Africanized bees will follow you tenaciously, and sting the heck out of you. (Their 'sting' is no more potent than regular bees, but they're so aggressive, the whole swarm will attack you).

Since the Mottbusch ridge is very narrow, and full of jagged, sharp boulders, and every way off the ridge was steep & full of cholla, scree, and loose rocks, I had no chance to "run-away".

Another tip is to get inside an enclosure (A house, a car). Not likely while on a hike.

So, I got off the actual high point of the ridgeline, and went further on the ridgeline, and down a bit. The swarm was now on the high point, buzzing and swarming around that high point.
My guess, there were thousands of them. They formed a darkened swirl.

My only defense was to stop moving, and hunker down, and cover my skin.
I had on my normal hiking stuff. I had thick, long pants on, and knee high gaiters. I also had a thick, long-sleeve polo shirt on, under my hiking shirt. I immediately rolled down my hiking shirt, put on my thick gloves, pulled down my huge brim hat, sat down in a crouched position, and crunched my neck down. I also covered my nose and mouth with my gloves, as bees attack where carbon dioxide is expelled.
I literally didn't move.
Note - Bee stings are delivered with a pheromone which labels you as a threat.

The main bee swarm stayed on the peak, but some of the outer periphery bees of the main swarm were circling me, and some of those bees were landing on me. I DID NOT swat at them, and I DID NOT kill them.
Dead bees emit an odor that attracts more bees.

Finally, the swarm left. What made the swarm leave?
I believe the wind. It had been totally windless the entire time the swarm was on the high point.
Then the wind started, and got up to at least 15 to 20 mph. The swarm stayed a 'swarm', but took cover on the leeward, no-wind side of the peek.
Eventually, the noise of the swarm disappeared, and they were gone.

I then quickly took photos of disks etc, and fled the high point in the opposite direction of the swarm's direction.

I checked my GPS track when I got home. I was literally in that crouched, motionless position for 34 minutes. That's how long those swarming bees were there. I believe my actions saved me from an actual attack.

Why do they swarm? - To protect their nest, and Africanized bees tend to swarm more often than other bees. Also, a swarm is a bunch of bees on the move. It happens when they leave their nest to move to a bigger one, or when a new queen is produced, and they split to form a new colony. They will protect their queen at all costs.

A hike suggestion - If you normally hike in shorts and never bring gloves, you might want to consider wearing convertible hiking pants, and keep the leg portion in your pack, ready to put on. If you don't use gloves, at least put a pair in your pack.

FYI - If stung, scrape stingers off the skin with a blunt instrument or plastic card. Do Not remove bee stingers with fingers or tweezers – this only forces toxins into the your body.

Well, that's the end of my bee saga. I don't know what made them swarm, and follow me up the ridge. From what I read, it doesn't take much to provoke them.

I don't blame the bees. One 'could' point to the bee biologists/keepers in South America, (over 60 years ago), that accidentally let quarantined Africanized bees get into the wild.
However, even without that accidental escape, those aggressive bees would probably have hitched a ride here by now anyway.

Hike safe.
Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost
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