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National parks: Aggressive bees close Joshua Tree campground

Christopher Reynolds, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Travel News

Rangers at California's Joshua Tree National Park have shut down the popular Jumbo Rocks Campground "due to aggressive honey bee activity."

"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. He said no stings were reported, the bees are "standard honey bees" and the park's many other campgrounds remain open.

Meanwhile, 300 miles to the northwest on the Sierra slopes of Sequoia National Park, biologists have spotted California condors for the first time in decades.

Summer has brought these and other wonders to California's nine national parks, which are gradually reopening after shutting down in March. Though Gov. Gavin Newsom continues to urge that Californians postpone leisure travel until the pandemic eases, Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon and a few other parks have opened some lodgings and camping areas.

Here's a roundup:

-- At Joshua Tree, seven campgrounds, including Indian Cove and Cottonwood, are open, as are its visitor centers. But because of the bees, Jumbo Rocks will be closed through July 23.

 

The bee situation is unusual, but not completely surprising, Smith said. In fact, scientists have estimated that there are hundreds of bee species in the park and a swarm forced temporary closure of the park's Keys View overlook a year ago.

But the closure does put more than 120 campsites out of commission. (Through Sept. 4, all camping in the park is first come, first served.)

Smith said the bees "are a natural part of the California desert, and they play a crucial role in helping the plant communities to pollinate ... They're also very thirsty creatures."

When thirsty bees don't find their way to water sources in the park such as Barker Dam and Keys Ranch, Smith said, they go looking for moisture at picnic tables and on the air-conditioning condensers of cars and RVs. Smith said he was "a little surprised" to see so many bees at Jumbo Rocks, given the many other options.

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