Bee Culture (September 2005), Vol. 133 (9): 17-19
Dr. Malcolm T. Sanford
There continues to be more news about the “Africanized,”
called by some “African,” honey bee now better termed by the more neutral, less
sensational moniker, “AHB.” A recent press
release revealed that this infamous insect has now been found in southwest
"Honey bees in general are very defensive,"
he is quoted as saying. "Some are more defensive than others. "If somebody sees a colony of bees, they
need to get away from it," he added. "If they get stung, they need to
get away a little faster. If they're getting a lot of stings, they need to run
to a place of safety." But the best bet is simply avoidance.
"You just need to respect the space of bees," Levi said. One might find the above advice somewhat confusing. No doubt this is the result of the kind of reporting by those who know little about honey bee behavior quoting experts in the field. It’s the sort of thing we’ve all come to expect when it comes to the 20th century’s “pop insect.” Another press release by
Now comes a release from the University of
Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) quoting Dr. H
Glenn Hall in the Department of Entomology and Nematology
as saying the AHB may eventually spread throughout the state and move into
other areas of the southeastern United States.2 “The bees, which tend to sting in large
numbers, have been found and stopped at various Florida ports over the past
decade, but now it looks like they're here to stay, according to Dr. Hall, who said
"If African honeybees become established in large numbers over the next few years, they will affect the beekeeping industry and the pollination of many crops," Hall said. "Public safety, recreation and tourism may also be affected, leading to liability problems."
“Hall, a bee geneticist who developed DNA markers to identify African honeybees, said that to the untrained eye they look the same as resident European honeybees. African bees more aggressively defend their nests than European bees. African bees may swarm as many as 16 times a year while European bees swarm about three times a year, he said.
“The African bees invaded five
southwestern states in the 1990s and have periodically turned up at
"However, new finds in the
In response to the press release, Jerry
“For the last decade,
“When a suspicious swarm is found in one
of our traps, or an apiary inspector identifies more defensive bees in a
managed colony, samples are taken. Of the 653 samples collected since 2002
(when the first AHBs were detected in a
“Testing for AHBs
in managed colonies is challenging and resource intensive.
A meeting of
How long this will remain the case is uncertain. The question all this brings into focus is when authorities should declare to the general public that the state has a population of AHB. Clearly, many people including beekeepers are caught here “between a rock and a hard place.” If declared too soon, then authorities run the risk of being called sensationalistic by beekeepers and others; if too late (i.e. after some sensationalized stinging incident), they are likely to be blamed for providing too little advanced warning. Given the responses of all other states with AHB populations, there is little reason to believe DPI will have the resources or will to mount any kind of eradication and/or control program. There was discussion about possibly mounting a certification program for beekeepers to provide them with a fallback position (damage control) should any become involved in law suits due to stinging incidents.
Meanwhile it seems prudent to no longer
deny to the press and others that AHB is in
The present situation appears to make my comments in
the November issue of The Florida
Beekeeper concerning these AHB finds more relevant and subject to change: “ In the face of the current situation, it is difficult to
The following should always be kept in mind when talking to reporters:
Rights -- No one from the press has the right to violate your
2. Honesty -- Never mislead or lie to a reporter. If the situation is under litigation, say this is so; if there is a question about profits, dollars or proprietary information, you can defer/refuse answering based on not informing competitors in the marketplace.
3. Buzz Words -- Never repeat an expression or inflammatory statement made by a reporter. As an example, if you are asked to what do you attribute this catastrophe, do not repeat the word "catastrophe." It then becomes attributable to you and you alone; you will "own" it.
4. Hostility -- Never get angry; keep cool and remember the reporter always has the last word.
5. Off the Record -- There is no such thing; if you don't want it reported, don't say it.
6. Estimates -- Never make numerical estimates in time or dollars. Say that the incident is under investigation and you will provide accurate information when it becomes available.
7. Reporter Verification -- Ask for identification, the purpose of a reporter's activities, media affiliation and telephone number.
8. Bridging -- Try to bridge the gap between a reporter's wish to be negative and providing a positive statement about your activity.
9. Statistics -- If you are not aware of statistics provided by a reporter, say so and ask for them in writing before commenting.
10. Deadlines -- All reporters are on deadlines, but you are not. Take all the time necessary to avoid hasty comments. The fact that a microphone is stuck in your face doesn't mean you have to say something. Dead air time is not likely to appear on television.
“It is best to have a communications plan in place and persons trained in this area. Defer all questions to one or two designated (and trained) persons to avoid giving conflicting information. An offensively oriented public relations/communications plan is the best defense against sensationalistic reporting based on negativism. Appointing and training of designated persons to speak for the group would be good activities for beekeeping associations both now and in the future.
Fortunately, there are a good many resources that beekeepers can point to as training references and can be used for reporters that are bound to call about this subject should any stinging incident arise. My good friend Tom Fasulo, the point man for information on all manner of pests in the IFAS Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida, has been quick to add several publications to his Pest Alert site,5 including both a fact sheet published in 1995 and a pointer to my previous Apis newsletter web site at the University, which details a history of this insect during my tenure as Florida’s extension apiculturist6.
"The truth of the matter is that we have fallen behind. When AHBs arrived in southern
"Over the years, AHBs did not spread as fast
as we anticipated. They just were discovered in the southernmost tip of
"The greatest problem is personnel turnover. A substantial portion of the previously trained health and emergency providers have ‘moved up’ or ‘moved out.’ New replacements are ignorant of the problems encountered working around defensive colonies of honey bees.”