Hillsborough Extension Garden Blog

Solutions you can use for your gardening problems.

The Africanized Honey Bee, part 3 of 4 February 20, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 3:43 pm

By Nancy Ham, Master Gardener and Advanced Bee Keeper

How can a homeowner protect themselves and family?

 

Most people have seen the re-enactments on TV of a tethered animal attacked by a swarm of bees. They may have heard the stories on the news or read them in newspapers of tree trimmers attacked. Inevitably, within a day, an “expert” is quoted by the news source proclaiming the bees are Africanized. This of course serves to scare the listener or reader into believing they are in eminent danger while outside. Add to that is the “Killer Bee” description coined by the media. As reported in previous posts, the human eye cannot detect the difference between the Africanized Honey Bee (AHB) and the European Honey Bee (EHB). The “expert” who usually remains anonymous is basing their opinion on the bees’ behavior and it should be remembered that almost all insects that maintain colonies will defend the colony when threatened. This includes yellow jackets, hornets and paper wasps to name a few.

Photo of an Africanized Honey Bee and an European Honey Bee

European Honey Bee and Africanized Honey Bee. Can you tell the difference? Photo credit: UF/IFAS

Because we live in a semi tropical area of the state, the social insects mentioned above can remain active year round although they will maintain larger numbers of members in the hive during the hotter months of the year.

What this means for the homeowner is the need for year round vigilance. The University of Florida has an excellent document called Bee-Proofing for Florida Citizens. This document provides homeowners steps to bee-proof your home. This document can be accessed at the below address at this link: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in741

What should a person do if encountering an angry swarm of bees?

 

Leave the area – in other words, RUN. Run and look for an enclosure to enter. This could be your home, your car or a shed. Some of the bees will probably enter the enclosure, but once inside many will become confused and fly to the windows looking for a way out. Even if some continue to pursue you and additional stings are sustained, the number will be fewer than if remaining outside.

Standing your ground and swatting at the bees just angers them more. Jumping in a pool or pond also is ineffective in the long run, as the bees will just wait for you to surface.

If stung multiple times, what should I do?

 

If you know you are allergic to bee venom, you should have already been prescribed an epinephrine (epi) pen from your doctor. The epi pen will give you about 20 minutes to seek medical attention. If you do not know whether or not you are truly allergic, monitor your vital signs for any indication of respiratory distress and seek help if indicated. Only a tiny percentage of people are truly allergic to bee venom. Most people experience redness, swelling and itching. This is a normal reaction to any insect venom.

With proper attention to our outdoor living spaces and awareness of the risks posed by all stinging insects, we should all be able to enjoy the awesome climate in which we live.

References and further information:

UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab-

http://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/honeybee/index.shtml

UF/IFAS African Honey Bee Extension and Education Program-

http://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/afbee/

Advertisements
 

The Africanized Honey Bee , Part two of Four February 19, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 11:01 am
By Nancy Ham, Master Gardener and Advanced Bee Keeper

What is the difference between the AHB and bees managed by bee keepers?  

Photo comparison of African Bee and European Bee

Comparison of an Africanized Honey Bee on left and a European Honey Bee on the right. Photo source: Scott Bauer USDA/ARS

All honey bees managed by bee keepers in Florida are descendants and hybrid mixes of the European or Western bee subspecies. They are usually fairly docile and easy to manage. That said, any colony could become defensive under certain circumstances such as harassment, rough handling, bad weather etc. Let me repeat a point made in earlier postings, and that is the Africanized Honey Bee (AHB) and the European HB (EHB) look exactly alike to the human eye. The only way to tell them apart is under a dissecting microscope and by a trained technician. This is partly why the homeowner is urged to avoid contact with even a seemingly docile swarm. The differences between the two subspecies are in their behavior. Below is a list of some of these behaviors. Dr. William Kern, Jr. of the University of Florida who is a recognized expert on the AHB supplies much of this information.

  1. The AHB can be intensively defensive of the colony. It has been observed they will pursue an intruder 10 times further than the EHB with 10 times the number of bees. (Kern, 2014)
  1. They can become defensive with an intruder at twice the distance of the EHB.
  1. AHB swarm many more times per year than the EHB. Swarming is the hives way of asexual reproduction and all bees are genetically programmed to do so. This involves the queen and half or more of the worker bees leaving the hive to establish a new colony leaving behind in the parent colony half or less of the workers and a new or emerging queen. In effect, one hive now becomes two. (Refer to a previous posting for more information on swarming)
  1. AHB will abscond more frequently if disturbed. When the colony absconds, unlike swarms, all the bees will abandon the hive sometimes leaving behind unattended brood and honey.
  1. AHB colonies grow faster than EHB colonies. The queen lays more eggs, produces more drones (males)and the development time is shorter.
  1. The AHB tends to establish colonies in smaller cavities than the EHB. They maintain smaller numbers of bees and swarm more frequently. Homeowners should be especially cautious when bees are found in meter boxes and other small cavities around the home.
  1. The AHB is more likely to establish a new home in exposed areas, such as tree limbs or outdoor gym equipment. They are also more likely to choose sites lower to the ground placing them in closer vicinity to humans.
Photo of a technician measuring an AHB wing.

Technician measuring an Africanized Honey Bee wing. Photo credit: Scott Bauer USDA/ARS

One additional characteristic of the AHB that has greatly aided in their success is their increased resistance to the pests and diseases that are devastating our EHB colonies. This is believed to be due to their evolving along side the pests and diseases the EHB wasn’t previously exposed to. References and further information: UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab- http://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/honeybee/index.shtml UF/IFAS African Honey Bee Extension and Education Program- http://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/afbee/ Kern, W. (2014). Africanized Honey Bees (Power Point slides)

 

The Africanized Honey Bee – Part One February 6, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 10:04 am

By Nancy Ham, Master Gardener and Advanced Bee Keeper

What is an Africanized honey bee?

The Africanized honey bee (AHB) is a cross between an African bee and a Western bee. Both bees are races of the species Apis mellifera and it is not unusual for two races or subspecies of a species to cross breed. Think about the cross of a Poodle and a Labrador. The result is a very cute and desirable puppy. But all cross breeding does not always produce the outcome desired. In the cross between the African and Western bee, the outcome has been very undesirable and has forever changed beekeeping in South America and in the southern United States.

This is a picture of an Africanized honey bee queen.

Africanized honey bee queen. Photo credit: Scott Bauer, USDA/ARS, USDA Photo Gallery

If the Africanized bee is undesirable, how did it come to exist?

In the 1950’s a Brazilian researcher imported 26 African queen bees to Brazil with the belief that he could crossbreed them with the European honey bees used in the beekeeping industry in Brazil and produce a superior race. The African bee evolved in a climate much like the Brazilian climate and he hoped their genetics would strengthen the European bees’ productivity.

One of his observations was that these cross bred colonies were very defensive. Then despite having safeguards in place, an accident released these bees into the environment. Since then, they have mated with the local population and have spread throughout the Americas.

According to Dr. Jamie Ellis, Associate Professor at the Department of Entomology and Nematology at the University of Florida, the AHB is considered to be the most successful invasive species of all times.

What is so undesirable about the Africanized bee?

The most undesirable trait is the defensiveness of the AHB. They are much quicker to go after a perceived threat from further distances than the European honey bee. They will pursue much further and in larger numbers. This characteristic poses a greater threat to unsuspecting individuals than other feral colonies. They also tend to establish colonies in smaller structures and often near homes. Beekeepers have learned to be extra vigilant when attempting to remove colonies from water meters, electrical boxes and other smaller cavities as these small spaces do not appeal to the European bee as much.

References and further information:
UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab- http://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/honeybee/index.shtml
UF/IFAS African Honey Bee Extension and Education Program- http://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/afbee/

 

 
%d bloggers like this: