Bees flee Joshua Tree, campgrounds reopening

A climber rests in the Jumbo Rocks area of Joshua Tree National Park in March 2019.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Joshua Tree National Park’s Cottonwood campground, closed last week because of bees, is open again. The park’s Jumbo Rocks campground, closed for the same reason, is on track to reopen Friday.

Both campgrounds closed because of “aggressive honeybee activity.” Park officials said the issue was not swarms or stinging, but thirst: Amid summer highs well over 100 degrees, bees had begun searching for water sources in campground areas, raising anxiety among campers.

The closures put about 180 campsites out of commission.

After bee activity began to dwindle at Cottonwood a few days ago, park spokeswoman Hannah Schwalbe said, rangers reopened the campground.

At Jumbo Rocks, where rangers closed down camping on July 9, the NPS has planned for a reopening on Friday.

The Cottonwood area is about 30 miles south of Jumbo Rocks.

When the bee situation arose, “there were a couple of vehicles with a lot of bees in them. And campsites. Visitors were very uncomfortable,” said Joshua Tree Superintendent David Smith at the time. He said no stings were reported and the bees involved were “standard honey bees.”