Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Killer Beezzz

Continuing with the theme this week where the readers told me what they wanted me to write about; Auntie L asked about Killer Bees and if they would ever come up the Pacific Northwest. I love agricultural themes, so it was fun writing this one...

Though is it commonly known as the Killer Bee; for this article we will address it as the Africanized Honey Bee or AHB.

The primary native pollinator in Brazil was a small stingless bee, but ambitious agriculturalists wanted to expand agriculture in Brazil and knew that they needed pollination on a massive scale. The European honey bee would have served them very well, but greed launched them into creating a super bee. Scientists knew of the aggressive South African honey bee, and figured that if they mixed the genes with its European cousin they might have a bee that was calm in nature and aggressive in pollination and honey production.

In 1956 they set about it scientifically taking precautions, but one new apiary worker noticed the colonies were screened and thought that it wasn’t right so he opened the screens to let the bees out to work.

The bee they created was as they hoped, an excellent pollinator and honey maker, however its behavior was still very defensive. It was aggressive toward any predators or anything mammalian that could be a potential predator. They were aggressive because predation was common place for them in South Africa. The trait carried over into the new breed, Apis mellifera scutellata.

Not only was this new bee aggressive to predators, it was also aggressive toward other European bee colonies. Rather than creating a new home for themselves, scout bees from swarms would invade existing European bee colonies, kill the queen and replace the queen with the swarm queen and the rest of the swarm colony. Africanized drones would mate with virgin European queens as well making her offspring Africanized as well.

AHB made its way to Mexico in 1985 and made its way to the United Stated in 1990 and to California in 1994. They can travel 200 miles per year.

The spread of AHB slowed to a near stop about five years ago, and the theory was that past these borders the nights were two-degrees colder and that would be enough to keep them from spreading, but in 2005 they were being found in odd places like Florida and Louisiana without a direct path between. They were found in one place and then another place hundreds of miles away with none found along the way. It has been determined that commercial migratory beekeepers are responsible for their transport.

The present question is if they will ever come up and be able to inhabit the Pacific Northwest. It is possible that a local beekeeper could purchase an AHB colony from Texas, and it could survive here during the warmer part of the year. With their present physiology it is doubtful they could survive a not-semi-tropical winter, but over time they could adapt.

Speaking of physiology, other than their defensive/aggressive nature the only difference between the AHB and its European cousin is that the AHB wings are shorter than 9mm and the European’s wings are greater than 9mm. Also the AHB brood cycle is one day shorter which means quicker colony buildup and strength.

Being in agriculture myself, I have spent some time with beekeepers. I’ve seen colonies that allowed inspection without any protective clothing and I’ve seen colonies that boil out of the hive as soon as they see the carbon dioxide from your exhaled breath. The remedy for this aggressive behavior is to immediately replace the queen the colony. Within six weeks the Africanized bees will have finished their life cycle.


Anonymous Auntie L said...

Guy - Thanks for using my suggested topic. I have always wanted to know more about the killer bees, used to hear about them all the time in the news, and now never hear about them at all.

Now I know just enough to satisfy my curiosity and probably will never have to know another thing about this topic. Thanks!

6:22 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Reading your blog is becoming educational - which is a good thing.
I'm hoping the AHB will never adapt to the climate here in Ontario. Putting up with aggressive mosquitoes and black flies in the summer months is enough for me.

9:46 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

I love writing on agricultural topics, except swine. I know very little about them.

Another note on AHB, I've heard that the leading edge is super aggressive/defensive, but once they settle in an area some of this nature calms to the point where they are still more aggressive than a European bee, but still able mind their manners more better than the front liners. Also I hear they are great honey producers.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Trish said...

Very interesting...I was wondering why we hadn't heard about them in a while.

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Moosehead said...

Did you just say "more better"? It has that kind of local down eastern language nuance to it...like "How she goin'?"- answered with "Da vary best". Blame that one on your myopia now! Sorry Guy, couldn't resist - it's my smartassadness genes kicking in.

Well written post about the bees. Luckily, with the exception of love, I have never been stung. Honest. Not once. Really.

2:45 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Shoot, I meant to write "Mo Better" but my playful side and my logical side must have clashed and comprimised with out me even thinking about it.

Trish, hopefully you will never hear of them up there.

Anyone want an article on goats? Horses? Now I'm in the mood for ag writing.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Moosehead said...

Goats? horses?How about one on bull? Ahh, you probably did that one already and nobody noticed. Just kidding -couldn't resist again- it must be the meds in me kicking in. I know you can take the poke - I can tell by the way you give them.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Boo7 said...

**chuckle** Moosehead is in rare form....what ARE those drugs you are taking hon??

Very interesting read Guy....but then again all the reads here are interesting, some funny, some informative and everything in between!!

8:18 PM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

Holy cow? We're talking about hostile takeovers and bloody coups? Wow! Who knew bees could be so...Neo Con!

And just because they didn't FIND any between point A and B doesn't mean that there aren't any.

It's interesting you brought this up today because I just cracked open a jar of your honey, had it with butter and cornbread and it was worth every military-style bee junta entailed in making it!

9:35 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Moosehead, you should know by now I write about bull all the time.

Boo, this week it is all about the readers. They asked for the article, and I provide them. Tomorrow is Douche Bag Day!

Mo3, usually if they are present they are known. This is a very sensitive subject in those areas and the local vector controls bait for them.

Ahh cornbread, my favorite.

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Auntie L said...

Guy - Let's hear about goats sometime. It is my dream in my old(er) age when I become a widow to buy a farm and raise goats mostly to make chevre which is the best thing on earth next to a nice bottle of red wine.

Are goats really a pain in the ass? I really don't like to do yard maintenance. Can they do that for me too if I owned some land???

6:14 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Will do, but it will be a multi-part series. Lots of info, lots of weirdness...

8:10 AM  

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