John Thomas, an entomologist at Texas A&M; University, is spending a lot of time these days trying to set the record straight on the U.S.-bound Africanized bee.

“They’re not going to come into a town in one big, huge black swarm and try to sting everything that moves,” he said. “But that’s the perception that a lot of people have because of films like ‘The Swarm’ and the ‘Killer Bees.’ ”

Still, he says, the Africanized bee is more aggressive than its domesticated counterpart, and he counsels caution when dealing with the insect. The first thing Southern Californians can do, he said, is to bee-proof their houses, denying the coming invaders an opportunity to set up housekeeping.

Here are some hints on how to do that:


* If you’re having a house built, inspect it with your contractor when it’s finished. Look for places where bees could get into wall spaces (any spaces of 1/8-inch or larger) and have them caulked. Gaps in the stucco around the chimney are particularly common entry points. An inspection is recommended even if your house isn’t brand new.

* If you have vents above your eaves, make sure they are screened. Again, the mesh openings should be smaller than 1/8-inch.

* Make sure your fireplace is screened. Besides keeping embers from flying into the room, this also keeps bees--which occasionally move into chimneys--from entering the house.

* Attics are among bees’ favorite nesting places. If you have an attic, look for light leaks. These are places where bees might enter, and they should be caulked or screened.


* If bees do get into your house, call a pest control expert or the fire department for help.

Never go after them with a hose or a pole or anything else. Keep in mind they needn’t be Africanized bees to do harm, and if they do turn out to be Africanized bees, the results could be catastrophic.