Africanized Honey Bees

Africanized Honey Bees
Unknown artist’s
Scary vision of AfHB
Do we need to be concerned!
Dewey M. Caron
Out of East Africa
Swarming into wild in Brazil
Native (Masai) harvest of rustic colony
In tree – nightime w/ smoke & fire
Beekeeper contemplating AHB swarm capture
Changing American Beekeepers
& Beekeeping
Beekeeper inspection of AHB colony in Panama
Note: using jumbo smoker
Africanized bee spread in Americas
following introduction into Brazil (1957)
Isolated introductions X by truck/rail/beekeeper - eliminated
X Maine blueberry pollination
sampling shows increase of AHB
X 2005
Numerous importations
X AL into Eastern ports - eliminated
2005 Fl considered colonized
Pacific coast
of Peru/Ecuador
due to beekeeper
colony movement
Why is Africanized Bee (AHB)
sometimes called “killer bee”?
“Killer” Bee is a media (TIME) term –
Bee is highly defensive and stinging incidents
Increase when it colonizes an area
(newspaper account AZ & southern CA stinging increase)
Animal stinging “accidents” often preceed those with humans
see for compilation of media stories
What is an Africanized Bee (AHB)?
A Honey Bee Population
w/ slight biological changes
AHB prefer smaller nest cavities
& build exposed nests more often
Than temperate (European) bees
Workers ‘running’ off comb
AHB differences from EHB – swarm a lot, are frequently defensive,
run on combs, rear workers in 19 days, queens in 15 ½ days, are
slightly smaller bodied, early risers and not great dancers, - slight
variations in biology familiar in European (temperate) bees (EHB).
The Africanized bee is a Pollinator
Melon pollination in
Costa Rica
But it is a more difficult bee to manage
in planned pollination due to higher
swarming /absconding/defensiveness
The AHB is a better honey producer in
tropical climates (compared to EHB)
Tropical Honey Production
Higher elevation (less tropical)
conditions in Bolivia
BUT Honey is a valuable medicine
in 3rd world rather than food
Honey for sale
In a Guatamalan
Note: you buy bottle
or piece of comb
In wax paper
The AHB is NOT a hybrid!
It is essentially pure African but not easy to
ID in early stages of colonization
Shown is Tom Rinderer, USDA making morphometric measures of wings –
mt DNA is a more reliable (but costly) method to determine AHB or EHB
Tropical vs Temperate honey bees
Temperate EHB in tropics
● store more honey for winter
● nest in well-insulated cavities
● rear lg worker populations
● only 1-3 swarms/year
● rarely abandon nest
Selection factor – winter -- so raise more workers
and store more honey to survive, swarming/
abandoning the nest less
Tropical vs Temperate honey bees
Tropical AHB in tropics
● smaller nests
● collect more pollen – less honey
● higher reproduction (swarming)
● abandon nests more
● more defensive
Selective factor – predation
-- so more quickly raise
brood and reproduce. Defend
more rapidly but also abandon
nest to reestablish elsewhere
Challenges w/ AHB
It can be unpredictable!
It can sting a lot –
humans & animals have died
Exploding from colony as it is opened
Challenges w/ AHB
Need new locations
Need to plan for defensiveness
Must now isolate or conceal colonies w/ vegetative corral
and move them away from people & animals
Challenges w/ AHB
Need to modify management
They raise lots
of brood – store
less honey
They run off combs
when inspected
+ Keeping them home – must control
swarming & absconding
The major challenge
Raising manageable stock
Queen finding &
rearing is very
difficult with AHB
Do we have a
better chance
of keeping gentle
European stock?
Where AHB colonize:
Not possible
to keep AHB &
EHB in same
(EHB not competitive)
So where has it colonized in US?
Not here ....YET!!!
It is a tropical/sub-tropical bee, not a desirable bee for temperate conditions…
We do NOT know its eventual distribution within U.S.
What needs to be done?
Inform beekeepers, 1st responders, public
Establish press relations (it will “hit” the press)
Survey for its presence
Revise bee laws
Requeen colony if
Keep on
Beekeepers are part of “solution” – not part of “problem”
So in summary....
AHB Honey Bee population has changed
the face of American beekeeping
It is an excellent tropical/semi-tropical bee
WHERE there is NO alternative!
Pre-AHB apiary
Where they have colonized they are superior competitors –
you can’t successfully keep European bees side-by-side
GOOD NEWS!! In South American
higher elevations AHB is more
apiary at
8500 ft
They CAN adapt to severe winters...but do better in the south!
AND they are now a ready
resource for rural campesinos
A trapped
AHB swarm/
- can be
to a hive or
from wild
USDA photo
So.... Will where will they be a
factor in US Beekeeping???
Primarily they are a
So the answer is....
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