Africanized Honey Bee in the
American Bee Journal (2006), Five Parts, March thru July.
This document is an expanded version of what was published in the American Bee Journal
Dr. Malcolm T. Sanford
Too much it seems cannot be said about the
Africanized honey bee in the
It’s time to get over this sensationalized image
and put a realistic perspective on the Africanized honey bee. This social insect is nothing more than a
honey bee with the same scientific name of all its cousins worldwide, Apis mellifera. It is virtually indistinguishable at a glance
from the other honey bees found in, but not native to, the
Although referred to as a particular insect, it may be more relevant to view the Africanized honey bee as an evolutionary “work in progress,” rather than a finished product. It is the result of a revolution that can occur when any living entity is introduced into a biological system. The list of such species across the world is very long and each has its own story. How systems react to these introductions has been dubbed the “Nemesis effect” by Chris Bright in World Watch Magazine, 2 who describes the results of this phenomenon as unforseen and destructive. The Africanized honey bee’s introduction certainly contains many of the characteristics described as part of the “Nemesis effect.”
What makes the
Africanized honey bee revolution unique is its direct human cultural
implications. For not only is the honey
bee of significance to the average citizen because of its biological activity
and defensive behavior, it is also the basis for an agricultural industry
consisting of products and services this insect provides to humanity. The purpose of this publication is to
describe the history of the Africanized honey bee in the
History of the Biological Revolution: Origin of Honey Bees
Honey bees are an Old-World species, thought to
have originated in
From now on in this publication, the term honey bee will refer specifically to the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera). A special quality of the honey bee is that, unlike most solitary or primitively-social insects, it develops a perennial nest that continues year after year. In addition, the insect has the ability to regulate its colony temperature and, thus, can persist in extremely hot and/or cold environments. This is the reason that the honey bee can be found almost anywhere on the globe from the tropics to the polar circles.
Many subspecies, often called “races,” of Apis mellifera
exist. In northern
It is important to understand that all
subspecies of Apis mellifera
readily interbreed, effectively exchanging genetic material. Thus, the existence of any kind of
genetically pure honey bee subspecies is extremely rare. However, over the centuries certain
populations of honey bees with specific adaptations, somewhat isolated from
each other over time, called “ecotypes,” have flourished in specialized
environments. Ecotypes have certain
behaviors that allow them to persist in specific climatological
conditions in conjunction with prevailing plants (flora) of an area. Two large regions of the earth that have a
number of indigenous honey bee races or ecotypes are Europe and
The earliest European honey bee ecotypes brought
over by the Spanish and English were probably predominantly Apis mellifera iberica
(Iberian peninsula) and Apis mellifera mellifera (north west Europe), respectively, but this
is not known for sure. Others were
introduced later, including species from the middle east
(Apis mellifera syriaca) and
European honey bee ecotypes reproduce by swarming, where replacement queens are reared and a colony splits in half with a new queen heading up the parent colony and the original queen flying off with a complement of bees (swarm) to find another home. This is similar to vegetative reproduction in plants. Usually there is a defined swarming season in temperate climates, and colonies usually swarm once or sometimes twice during that time. European honey bee ecotypes have relatively few enemies and are usually not characterized as “defensive.” The “gentleness” of managed European honey bees is considered to be the result of many years of selection by human beekeepers. This does not mean that all European honey bees are gentle. Certain colonies may even be selected for fierceness to avoid them being vandalized. Colonies found in the wild may also be more defensive, though not necessarily so.
Apis mellifera in the tropics: The African Honey Bee
It is thought that over millennia the African
and European races of Apis mellifera are
the result of groups of honey bees that migrated out of
Many of the tropical honey bees of Africa have a relatively larger defensiveness and swarming quotient than their European cousins, along with a greater propensity to abandon the nest (abscond) should resources run low or the nest be overrun by diseases or pests. And it is behavior, not structure (morphology), that is the greatest difference between the honey bees of the tropics and those inhabiting the temperate zones.
Tropical versus Temperate Honey Bees: The Basis for Africanization
The story of the Africanized honey bee,
therefore, is firmly rooted in behavioral differences between tropical and
temperate honey bees. The first bees
brought to the
Over time, it became apparent that European honey bees, adapted to temperate zones did not flourish as well in the American tropics. They were simply not in tune with the environment. A list of the differences between tropical and temperate honey bees is detailed by Dr. Mark Winston.5 These include nest characteristics (volume and cell size), individual life span (shorter for Africanized bees), age-based worker behavior, colony growth and reproduction, drone rearing, and seasonal patterns of swarming and absconding. The latter two qualities (swarming and absconding) are perhaps the most dramatic differences seen between these two kinds of honey bees and have led to the phenomenal migration success of the Africanized honey bee. Although generally this is the case, it should be stressed that it does not hold across the full extent of the environments in question. For example, although a large beekeeping industry based on European honey bees never flourished in sub tropical Brazil, it did in the Yucatan of Mexico, which in the 1940s and 50s was the world’s largest honey exporting region.
It was in
Dr. Kerr’s story is a fascinating one of science
mixed with politics. Perhaps the best
treatment is that by Wallace White.6 According to Mr. White, Dr. Kerr was
originally asked to import queens from
Mr. White reported that after some selection and
natural mortality, 28 or 29 nuclei became the basis for the breeding effort by
Dr. Kerr. From these colonies a group of
queens were reared and inseminated from sperm of European (Apis mellifera ligustica)
drones. Selection from
the first cross, or F1 hybrid, produced daughter queens for subsequent
generations. One queen in
Although there has been much emphasis on the queens’ role in the process, Mr. White reported that Dr. Kerr believed the importance of drones should not be underestimated. Thus, if each of the daughter queens of the twenty-six swarms (queens) was mated by as many as seventeen drones, this would have fantastically increased the plasticity and viability of the population. In any case, the hybrids that resulted from these matings began spreading rapidly.
Again, the changes observed in
Defensive versus Aggressive Behavior in Honey Bees
Stinging behavior by honey bees has evolved as a strictly defensive measure and is usually confined to protecting the nest or colony. Honey bees in the field seldom sting and are never “aggressive,” that is, seek out hosts to sting. However, most writings in the lay press and reports on television about honey bees emphasize the latter term, not the former. This habit unfortunately has also crept into the scientific and even beekeeping communities. Thus, honey bees often appear to the sensitized general public as simply “aggressive.” And because people and animals have been killed by these insects, it probably is inevitable that the term “killer bee” would be coined and continues to be used with reference to honey bees, particularly those found in the tropics usually referred to as “Africanized.”
It is emphasized that defensive behavior is a
relative term. Perhaps the most gentle
bees this author has observed are those of the Ile d’Yeu
off the Northwest Coast of France.7 These are considered pure caucasian honey bees (Apis mellifera caucasica). In comparison, almost all other honey bees
might be classified as “over-defensive.”
On the other side of the spectrum, this author has observed honey bees
Studies in Africanized honey bee areas indicate that not all colonies of bees become over-defensive, but even a minority of such colonies within an apiary or operation may cause abandonment of apiaries by beekeepers.8 Since defensive behavior is really what beekeepers and the general public are concerned about with reference to Africanized bees, one of the more reasonable, but not scientifically acceptable, ways to identify these bees is to provoke an attack (i.e. kick a hive) to see the kind of defensive behavior elicited. A beekeeper with experience working colonies very quickly can judge a range of defensiveness shown in a colony or apiary and can take appropriate measures from applying more smoke to exiting the apiary to requeening colonies considered over defensive. Many beekeepers believe that the most defensive colonies are the better honey producers.
New research techniques may provide some innovative ways to manage stinging behavior: Drs. E. Guzman-Novoa and G. Hunt, for example, have developed specific gene markers that are associated with the probability of queen bees having the African version of stinging genes so it will be easier for breeders to avoid using them. They conclude: "Now that we have the markers we can selectively breed for gentle bees."9 The DNA markers are available to other scientists to determine if honey bee populations in their regions have genes for aggressive behavior. This research also could lead to the isolation of genes that influence bee behavior and suggest ways to decrease stinging incidents.
Spread of the Africanized Honey Bee in the
The Africanized honey bee has truly taken the
Countries first receiving migrations of
Africanized honey bees were
There are studies of the Africanization
process in several of these countries.
Perhaps it is best documented in
The Costa Rican experience was studied
extensively by Dr. Marla Spivak.13
She looked at different aspects of the migration based on elevation and
found what was later to be recognized in many zones of active Africanization, that altitude made a difference in the
process. Thus, in the hot, tropical
lowlands there was rapid establishment of migratory swarms and abrupt changes
in local bee populations. At higher
elevations, the Africanization process did not occur
so quickly. The final distribution of
Africanized traits also appears to mirror this, as anecdotal evidence, from
The question is not whether Africanized honey
bee colonies survive, however, but if a viable population with strongly
Africanized characteristics can establish itself at high altitudes.
For those in temperate
Controversy over cold hardiness is the basis for
very different maps drawn concerning the eventual distribution of the
Africanized honey bee in
Although the Africanized honey bee is not
expected to become established in high latitude, temperate climates, the
Canadian border remains closed to honey bee shipments, principally because of
the presence of the bee in the neighboring southern
It was thought that much of the riddle about
where the Africanized honey bee would take up residence would be answered when
the bees entered the
The Africanized honey bee has not moved east
and, over a decade after its arrival, a population has not been reported in
Although a permanent population has not
developed along the coast of the
Managing the Africanized Honey Bee in the
All countries invaded by the Africanized honey
bee have gone through more or less a similar history to that of
“In all regions, there were beekeepers who were unwilling to modify their practices to adapt to new circumstances. They soon experienced extreme stinging responses and high incidences of swarming and absconding. Ultimately, these beekeepers abandoned their colonies. Based on these occurrences, the idea was erroneously perpetuated that the entire population displayed uniform characteristics and that all bees were both dangerous to the public and undesirable from a management standpoint.
“When swarms and colonies from all areas were observed and assessed on an individual basis, however, they clearly displayed a wide range of behavioral characteristics. It was the minority of colonies which were consistently unmanageable and extremely defensive. Those beekeepers who were willing to requeen or kill such colonies and modify their management practices were able to work Africanized colonies profitably and with minimal danger to the beekeeper or public." 23
Looking at the manageability of the Africanized honey bee in all environments it occupies, suggests that there is often no pattern that can be logically discerned among colonies. Even the same colony can be highly manageable on one occasion, yet completely out of control the next. Management of any system requires some degree of predictability. That certainly is the case for European honey bees. In the vast majority of cases, these insects can be counted on to take advantage of the same nectar resources, build their population numbers in regular fashion and otherwise behave in a consistent manner. This is especially important not only for honey production, but commercial pollination and the one behavior beekeepers and the general public are most concerned about, defensive response.
Adding to the general phenomena of unpredictability in managing Africanized bee colonies is the fact that swarms (reproductive and migratory) are completely different in temperament than established colonies. Many novice beekeepers have gotten into trouble when they hived a swarm with low defensive behavior and later mistakenly thought they could also manipulate an established colony of the same bees using similar techniques.
The general unpredictability of the Africanized
honey bee leads to all kinds of management concerns. Dr. Eric Mussen
perhaps reported it best, quoting southern
With reference to productivity, there can also
be unpredictability. One problem is the
paucity of studies. How productive
so-called “hybrids” between European and Africanized honey bees are continues
to be controversial. Drs. H.G. Hall and
J. F. Harrison have provided the first (and so far only) solid data to show
that African-European hybrids are at a disadvantage in their struggle for
survival. They measured the in-flight
carbon dioxide output of 15 colonies of hybrids that Dr. Hall had established
The results, as reported in the Apis newsletter27 taken from May 20th issue of the international journal, Nature, show that Africanized bees are "souped up," they have higher metabolic capacities than European bees as predicted and observed. However, the hybrids' energy-producing capacities were not intermediate, as originally thought, but only equivalent to or lower than those of Europeans. The hybrids' lower metabolic rate may result in inferior flight performance or in other ways make them less adaptive in the tropics. Certain enzymes in the mitochondria, where the oxygen is used and energy produced, require mitochondrial genes that come just from the mother, as well as nuclear genes that come from both the mother and the father. Hall hypothesized that because Africanized and European bees have been separated for many thousands of years, the components of these enzymes may not be perfectly compatible.
This information further confirms the prediction and subsequent observations that two distinct populations of bees exist in areas being colonized by Africanized bees. The population of European managed bees is constantly under threat of being Africanized by the other, consisting of many wild Africanized colonies. Because the Africanized mother lines are intact, however, the reverse is not true; very few European queens manage to produce drones which will hybridize with Africanized queens. Finally, this suggests that hybrids produced in the wild are at an extreme disadvantage and their survival is questionable.
From a practical standpoint this means that to continue managing European stock in tropical areas, beekeepers must consistently requeen with European queens which must come from outside the area under siege by African bees. To keep things in perspective, however, Dr. Hall suggests that some hybrids, which are managed properly by beekeepers, may actually be superior producers in certain situations. This may be analagous to the current situation where those investigating mite resistance in various strains of bees suggest that some tradeoff may be necessary to keep a balance, in effect substituting superior honey production for less vulnerability to parasitic mites.
Identification of Africanized Honey Bees: What’s in a Name?
The Africanized honey bee has been called many
names during it’s occupation of the
Given the insect’s reputation, the term
“Brazilian Bee” did not sit well with many in the country. Brazilians were also upset about the
conclusions in the report, believing that they did not reflect what was happening
in the country at the time30.
The name was also not accurate taxonomically speaking and has given way
to either “African” or “Africanized” in the ensuing years. Although originally thought to be a derivative
of Apis mellifera adansonii from central
The naming problem exists to this day in
scientific circles with some insisting that the best term for neotropical honey bees is
“African” rather than “Africanized” and vice versa. According to M. Winston, important biological
implications result from such a nomenclatural dispute, with far-reaching
applications in both management and control. Two critical issues are: (1) how similar are
bees in the
Addressing the above questions, Dr. Winston says, is deceptively complex. This well characterizes the conundrum beekeepers, regulators and others face in trying to identify the insect. That’s because the behavior of Africanized honey bees is easy to distinguish from its European sisters. Unfortunately, naming according to such a “subjective taxonomy” gives little information about how “European” or “African” a colony might be.31
The first effort to identify Africanized honey bees, and the one still in place for “official” diagnosis, is the classical one used in most biological classification (taxonomy), morphometrics. This refers to measurements of body parts. Two subclasses are univariate and multivariate analyses. The former type has quickly given way to the latter, which is considered more accurate.
A comprehensive publication on morphometrics and honey bees is by F. Ruttner.32 Morphometric multivariate analysis for honey bees was further pioneered by H. Daly and colleagues. “When Africanized and European bees are compared on the basis of single characters, the variation in characters usually overlaps between groups. An intermediate specimen or sample from a colony, therefore, cannot be identified at a high level of probability by a single character.” 33
The method developed by Daly and colleagues employs twenty-five separate measurements. These include “four linear measurements and ten angles between veins of the fore wing, number of hamuli (hooks that attach fore and hind wings), two linear measurements of the hind wing, four linear measurements of the hind leg, and four of the third sternum.”34 Taken together these measurements are calculated to determine the probablility of Africanization. As might be imagined, this is a tedious and time-consuming process.
In an effort to make the technique available to regulatory officials and others, a version called Fast Africanized Bee Identification System or FABIS35was developed at the USDA Baton Rouge Honey Bee Laboratory.36 This involves a procedure that uses both fore wing length and weight of degastered bees (bees without abdomens). Although named FABIS, the system as it is used really is better characterized as a fast European bee identification system. This is because it discriminates European bees very well. Comparing them with Africanized bees, on the other hand, is not well discriminated in the system (90% or less) and they must be subjected to further analysis, called the Universal System for Detecting Africanization (USDA-ID), which uses the full morphometrics technique.
has undergone a revolution in the last two decades. “Now that the synthesis is established, the
emphasis can shift to the application of morphometrics
in various biological disciplines.”37 Morphometrics-based
identification has been criticized over the years for several reasons. One is that the baseline of information to
design the original system may have been too narrow or limited. Another is that a great deal of measurement
is prone to random error that can infiltrate the system. Finally, environmental factors cannot be
ruled out as influencing morphometrics. Most telling perhaps is determination of bee
size based on the cells they are reared in.
Thus, informal identification techniques in
Other methods of identification have been suggested and employed. One is characterizing allozymes (isozyme variants) using electrophoresis. Especially important have been hexokinase and malate dehydrogenase. According to Daly, "The use of allozymes to identify Africanized bees remains a viable option in need of improvement.” Disadvantages include the need for specialized equipment, frozen samples and the fact that an adequate baseline of expected genotype frequencies in certain geographical areas has not been established.
The same might be said of using cuticular hydrocarbon analysis, which has also been proposed. “Analyses of extractable hydrocarbons have demonstrated a number of differences in composition that are of potential use in identification.”39 Frozen samples are not necessary; a single bee can be analyzed; and the process can be automated. However, questions concerning the affects of bee age and potential hybridization remain.
Perhaps more focused than any method of honey bee discrimination is that provided by DNA research. Studies pioneered by H. G. Hall show that DNA polymorphisms do exist that distinguish African from European honey bees. Two types of DNA occur in biological species, allowing for differing kinds of analyses. Whereas nuclear DNA is the result of the union of egg and sperm, mitochondrial DNA is only maternally inherited. Again, detractors of this method point to small sample sizes and the need for expensive labor and equipment to perform routine analysis of honey bee samples. Nevertheless, Dr. Hall states: “Results from DNA research provide a detailed view of African-European bee genetic relationship not possible with other methods. Morphological and protein similarities have masked an underlying genetic variability only now being revealed by the bees’ DNA.”40 The results of Dr. Hall’s research have convinced him that the term “Africanized” should not refer to the invading bees as it implies that they were originally European. Thus, he prefers to call these bees “African.”
With new analyses and better interpretations of
data, morphometrics may be in the process of being
abandoned altogether. Thus, according to
H.R. Hepburn and S.E. Radloff, “There is an emerging
paradigm shift from the morphometric mean, as the
paramount statistic for defining subspecies, to that of the F statistic to characterise populations.”41 Independent geographic variation and
non-morphometric knowledge creates problems in
developing specific names that are biologically meaningful. It seems that “One must choose between
newfound biological meaningfulness and traditional taxonomic convenience, which
entirely depends on the level of knowledge available about the extent of
natural variation within a species.”42. This author specifically asked Dr. Hepburn at
the 2001 Apimondia meeting in
In the final analysis, of course, none of the above discussion matters much to either the general public or the beekeeper who must deal daily with honey bees at the field level. Both human populations are interested only in one characteristic, defensive behavior. Few beekeepers enjoy managing over-defensive colonies. As for the general public, it seems that Dr. Winston’s analysis continues to be correct. “The media have largely ignored the intriguing natural history behind this insect’s proliferation and have paid scant attention to its economic impact. Rather, attention has focused on shock stories and jokes, bad puns, and lurid tales of death by stinging. As a result, the public’s impression of the Africanized honey bee goes far beyond it natural significance, and the normal fear in which people hold bees has become exaggerated to a ludicrous extent.”43
Perhaps in response to the fact that the terms “African” and “Africanized” were so problematic, a new name is creeping into the literature, AHB. This neutral acronym solves several problems; it defuses the naming problem and also reduces sensationalism. Although its use seems to be on the rise in both the lay and popular press, AHB is meaningless with reference to the scientific millieu that surrounds these bees. In the long run, therefore, it may confuse rather than clarify the naming problem. In this publication, the name for these bees will continue to be “Africanized” as in its title.
Biological Basis for Africanization: An Asymmetric Process
Perhaps the most important issue surrounding neotropical honey bees introduced
As noted in the pages of the APIS newsletter, as reported in the journal Nature (Hall and Muralidharan, v. 339: 211-213):
provides evidence that African honey bees are spread as a result of swarming by
queens. Of nineteen feral colonies
that all swarms collected by Dr. Hall would have African mitochondrial DNA
should be small considering the fact that the bees are 5,000 miles and over 150
generations removed from their beginnings in Brazil. In addition, the swarms were collected only
fifteen months after arrival of the African bee in the area of
"In a comment on
the above papers in the same journal, Dr. Robert Page,
interpretation of the above information is that drones play a much smaller role
in the propagation of African bees in the tropics than do queens. If drones were the prime force causing Africanization of European bees in places like
"Part and parcel
of this interpretation is the prediction that two populations of bees exist in
areas being colonized by African bees.
One population of European managed bees is constantly under threat of
being Africanized by the great many wild African colonies in the area. Because the African mother lines are intact,
however, the reverse is not true; very few European queens manage to produce
drones which will hybridize with African queens. This means that to continue managing European
stock, beekeepers must consistently requeen with
European queens which must come from outside the area under siege by African
bees. This is the scenario many
beekeepers will face, especially in the southern
"The above interpretation is not without detractors. Although there have and continue to be many words said at bee meetings and other gatherings concerning the potential hybridization between European and African bees in the tropics, no reviewed publications exist to refute the findings reported above.
According to Dr. Hall, DNA findings to date can be easily summarized.
1. The migrating force of African bees consists of unbroken African mother lines spreading as feral swarms. Evidence for this is found in results of the mitochondrial DNA studies mentioned above.
2. In the tropics, African queens in feral swarms have hybridized only to a small extent, if at all, with European drones. Evidence for this is found in nuclear DNA study.
3. European queens in tropical apiaries extensively hybridize with African drones, and can be called Africanized.
Therefore, as Dr. Hall
pointed out in his report on DNA research funded partially by the Florida State
Beekeepers Association in a recent association newsletter: ‘As the bees move
north into temperate regions, where European bees have advantages, increasing
amounts of hybridization should take place.
African behavior among feral bees should become reduced. European and
African bees will probably establish a hybrid boundary across the southern
Dr. Hall’s view of asymmetric hybridization remains controversial. Mostly it seems to boil down to a matter of how much hybridization one is willing to accept and/or can prove. For example, as R. Helmich and T. Rinderer state,
“It is important to
understand that Africanized bees are hybrids.
The processes of Africanization resist changes
in gene frequency toward the European types and yet there is sufficient mating
between Africanized and European bees that extensive measurable hybridization
exists throughout the Africanized population.
Since Africanized bees only resist cross breeding but are not insulated
from it, the processes of Africanization are
imperfect. Consequently, (1) hybrid
populations form throughout the range of bees in the New World, (2) programs by
agencies, groups or individual beekeepers that promote mitigation of Africanization through hybridization are likely to be
successful, and (3) variation derived from hybridization can provide a good
basis for the development of quality strains using selection programs
In this context, information is needed on how
hybrids interact and behave. G. Hall at
African mother lines generally propagate better-performing hybrid offspring than do Europeans in the first generation (called F1 by geneticists), although European mother lines do produce viable stock. In succeeding generations (back crosses), both African and European mother lines become progressively less vigorous. However, the European mother lines do so to a much greater degree.
Thus, instead of uniform hybridization between the two populations, these investigations suggest a parental influence skewed towards the African side in the American tropics. It was stressed that these dynamics have been studied in mostly feral or wild bee populations. Colony management (helping them become more competitive) by beekeepers in the honey production study appeared to help hybrid stock compensate. In one African-European cross, for example, while metabolic rates were lower, suggesting a less productive bee, honey production was almost the same level as that of the maternal African parent.
Dr. Taylor said that in the tropics, a zone of temporary hybridization may first appear along the feral African bee invading front, but that population becomes more African-like over time. How much of a hybrid African-European feral population will eventually persist across the southern tier of states in the United States, as is now found in northern Argentina, he stated, is unknown at present.
According to Dr. Hall, these studies
collectively reveal that far more attention may have to be paid to the
contribution of the African mother line when developing hybrid honey bees for
beekeeper use in the southern
The term hybridization, however, may mean little
when it comes to describing the Africanized bee with reference how closely are
Africanized honey bees related to their African ancestors. According to Dr. D. Fletcher, genetically
“pure” African Apis mellifera scutellata may not have been imported into
1. The founder effect: That the genetic material introduced was limited and was not representative of the original population as a whole.
Selection in the tropics: That
the transvaal A. m. scutellata are
not nearly as tropical as those of
3. Attrition of patrilines: Few patrilines would survive the initial stages of developing a feral African population. Dr. Fletcher did not mention if these are European patrilines.
4. Attrition of matrilines: If all 26 original matrilines survived, there still would be a relatively small sample of the genes present in the African population.
Thus, Dr. Fletcher concludes, “There is strong
empirical and deductive evidence to suggest that the African bees that will
Plans to Deal With the
Africanized Honey Bee:
Humans have conjured up plans to deal with the
Africanized honey bee ever since it was first introduced. It took experiences in
Immediate concerns in areas invaded by the bee are the changes the Africanized honey bee will demand of a local beekeeping industry and public safety. In essence the bees will not change; the people dealing with these insects much adapt their behavior.
There is no question that most regions in
The Brazilian Experience
Although the European honey bee had been introduced two centuries before, wild nests were rare and the craft of beekeeping was practiced by only a few dedicated persons, who often kept colonies in mostly rustic, fixed-comb hives, not of the modern moveable-frame Langstroth design. This changed greatly with introduction of the Africanized honey according to Eng. Agr. Paulo Gustavo Sommer,
“Introduction of the
Africanized honey bee in 1956, however, was a seminal turning point. The result of twenty-six queens escaping
from these ashes, however, has come a robust
commercial activity based on Africanized bees, according to Eng. Sommer. Over ninety
percent of Brazilian colonies are now managed in modern moveable-frame Langstroth equipment.
A growth rate of 4.5 percent per year in honey production since 1985 has
resulted in production of 35,000 tons in 1996, rivaling nearby
“Besides the Langstroth hive, other modifications in beekeeping
technique have been made in
“Among the most
important attributes of the Africanized bee in
1. Increased hygienic behavior.
2. More efficient foraging.
3. Greater natural resistance against pests and diseases.
4. Superior pollination in intensively cultivated fields.
5. Stronger genetic dominance.
5. Increased defensive and swarming behavior.
behaviors would seem to be counterproductive, but proof that they are
controllable is found in the present condition of
The scientific energy engendered is also
apparent. The proceedings of the eleventh Brazilian
beekeeping congress in
A lead institution in Brazilian bee research and
education is the
A summary of the considerable body of scientific
knowledge accumulated since introduction of the Africanized honey bee was
published as homage to Dr. Kerr on his 70th Birthday in 1992, containing 600 pages
in Portuguese with English abstracts of theses and dissertations. It is characterized in the introduction
as "...a resource for beekeepers, teachers, students and researchers in
Another important topic in
selection of Africanized honey bee behavior has occurred in two important and
controversial areas in
"There is great
variability in defensiveness in
has also climbed since introduction of the Africanized honey bee into
1. The weight of the bee for each visit.
2. The amount of syrup collected.
3. The time spent at the syrup source.
4. The time spent in a colony between visits.
5. The time before the syrup source is located.
6. The flying time to the source and back to the colony.
"Analyzing the above over time, it has been possible to show that Africanized worker bees fly faster, spend less time in the colony and more in the field and recruit sister bees better than Europeans. These taken together make them more productive, and these traits have also been incorporated by selection into local bee populations."53
Advances in Managing Africanized Bees in
According to Dr. A. Soares,
selection programs in
Another Brazilian development is creating a honey bee with a "split sting," resulting from exposing the insects to radiation from cobalt 60. The process creates a mutation and the sting apparatus does not develop correctly. As a result, these bees cannot sting. Beekeepers themselves have been reported not to use this kind of bee, which is in effect defenseless, however it has potential in some areas where risks of stings must be minimized. Stinging incidents can be greatly reduced in urban areas, Dr. Soares says, by using the following techniques:
1. Manipulating colonies with great care.
2. Locating hives correctly.
3. Using adequate equipment and protective clothing.
4. Manipulating only when climatic conditions are favorable.
5. Selecting for less-defensive bees and using European bees when necessary.
6. Taking advantage of mutations such as the split sting.54
The present robustness and vitality of the
Brazilian beekeeping industry cannot be ignored. This author has seen it first hand on several
occasions. Perhaps the turning point was
the year 1989, when the world apicultural congress (Apimondia)
A prime example of new opportunities provided by
Africanized honey bees is the history of beekeeping in the sertão
In spite of the honey beekeeping resources of
the caatinga, the predominant vegetation of the sertão, the area was not exploited until the brothers Arlindo and Arnaldo Wenzel, from
the southern state of Sã Paulo, and Américo Bende, from the northern
state of Piauí, teamed up to bring the first Langstroth hives to the region. In December 1977, they introduced 300
colonies of Apis
bees to Piauí state.
The results were nothing less than spectacular. In three months, they
produced the same amount of honey as during an entire year in
Another opportunity provided by the Africanized
honey bee in
Perhaps the most intensive management plan in
Latin America was the one developed by
The Bee Regulated Zone in
The largest concerted effort to stop the Africanized honey bee migration was a program called the Bee Regulated Zone (BRZ) that took shape in the mid 1980s. According to a description in a leading bee journal at the time,
“ total man-power and equipment
expenditures were briefly outlined to give those attending an idea of what the
proposed $8 million would be used for. There would be a total of 88 stations
located along the barrier zone. Each
station would contain 44 apiaries of 4-20 colonies spaced at 3 kilometer
distances. Also, each station would have 177 drone traps spaced 1.5 kilometers
apart. Approximately 1600 bait stations would he established. Each unit would
need a supervisor, identifier, control workers, 2-3 vehicles and a control
worksite to perform identification work. Each worker would be required to:
Check 4.3 apiaries per month; 17.3 drone traps periodically every day and 156.4
bait stations every two weeks. Total
figures for the project are: 3,872 apiaries; 38,700 colonies; 15,500 drone
traps; 141,000 bait stations and hives; 1,114 unskilled employees; 220
vehicles; 88 remote work sites and 1 central headquarters. Additional
activities of the group would include: Swarm trapping; requeening
and equipment moderization; trapping AHB drones and
intensive production of European drones at queen production sites; establishing
an ARS laboratory in
The BRZ was controversial. However, the elements put into place laid a
basis for other future control efforts.
They included identification and quarantines, swarm and colony
destruction using trapping methods, maintenance of European bees and
controlling drones (trapping and flooding).
In the end, the program failed to stop the bees but was a useful model
for extension efforts to assist beekeepers.
The role of information delivery played an important part and became the
As the value of these programs become evident,
more and more countries in
Trapping Technology: The Basis for Monitoring and Managing Populations
Swarm traps of every conceivable size and shape
have been used to chart the progress of Africanized honey bees through Central
America and into the
According to S. Thoenes,
Plans to Deal With the
Africanized Honey Bee:
North America has benefited substantially from
the results of informational programs in Central and
Several special meetings on the Africanized
honey bee occurred in the
A turning point was a workshop held October
24-26, 1991 in
1. Colony management for the purpose of stock certification should be consistent with the recommendations developed at the USDA/NASDA workshop.
3. Locate colonies of bees away from roads so the bees do not interfere with vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
4. Avoid placing colonies near or on utility (power lines, underground cables, pipelines) right of ways unless permission is granted.
5. Avoid placing colonies near schools, municipal recreation areas (especially swimming facilities), parks, picnic grounds or other locations which may encourage adverse honey bee/public interactions. Areas with water sources or a sugar source from trash cans, soft drink vendors, etc., aren't conducive to positive public reactions.
6. Open air feeding of honey and sugar syrup is not recommended as it promotes defensive behavior by the bees and the spread of diseases or pests.
7. Provide clean water sources in apiaries that do not have natural supplies of water or in areas with residential swimming pools.
8. Locate staging yards away from populated areas even if only a few houses are nearby. Staging yards tend to have defensive
9. Park trucks loaded with full supers away from areas frequented by people, especially when stopping at a store for a drink, etc.
Many bees remain in the supers during honey removal. The best approach is to net honey laden supers.
10. All loads of bees should be netted or screened even when moving at night.
11. Requeen colonies that exhibit consistent defensive behavior.
12. Try to manipulate colonies during optimal weather conditions and advise landowners, especially those with livestock, when major manipulations such as honey harvest are to be performed64.
Although based on current "best" information at the time, there also continued to be questions about the plan's specifics. Dr. Eric Mussen presented some editorial remarks about these in his newsletter:
1. Virgin European queens mating in areas where there are Africanized colonies only need mate with 20-30% Africanized drones before becoming defensive.
2. There is no need to restrict identification of Africanization to any specific method.
3. Sixty European drone source colonies per 1,000 mating nuclei are not enough and no mention is made of using drone foundation.
4. Semen certification does not seem to concern itself enough with the question of drift.
Nevertheless, in spite of several reservations, Dr. Mussen concluded: “...much of the plan will make sense and state programs will become similar to it." 65
The conclusion from the workshop and subsequent deliberations was that developing a model beekeeping management plan will require input from beekeepers, growers, researchers, extension educators and others. Apiary management routines vary according to geographic region and climate and pest management strategies must reflect these differences.
All this brings to mind the writing of Dr. Elbert Jaycox, quoted in the Apis newsletter from the (January, 1990 issue of Gleanings in Bee Culture).
"There is no lack
of candidates for leadership or of ideas about how we will deal with the
African bees when they cross our southern border, perhaps this year. We will
poison them, exclude them, outbreed them, and trap them, if you believe the
proposals that have been presented. Yet how can you have faith that we will
exert any effect on the invasion when you look at the two previous debacles in
handling the advent of two other serious pests (tracheal and Varroa mites) in the
"We have equally
fallacious ideas about how we will deal with African bees. They are fallacious
because they are based on the idea that we will be able to spend large sums of
money on control measures and regulatory action designed to maintain European
honey bee stock in areas suitable for African bees. These include certifying and inspecting for
European queens and destroying hundreds of thousands of colonies. I can only offer a simple prediction: we will
not find the sums needed and we will not prevent the widespread distribution of
African bees and their hybrids in the
In anticipation of its arrival, several states
have developed contingency plans to deal with Africanized honey bees based on
1. Public awareness with a budget of $50,000 per year. Major directions are to let the public know directly and through other state agencies about the bee. Specific audiences are governmental offices (cities andcounties), tourist bureaus, civic groups and schools.
2. Research with a budget of $134,000 per year. Major emphases are to study methods of identification and stock certification and the process of genetic interactions. This program is also expected to establish baseline information and study the bees' dispersal patterns. Finally, it will consult and collaborate with the USDA laboratories concerning managing both feral and domesticated bee populations.
3. Training with a budget of $50,000 per year. Major emphases are training beekeepers, other agriculturalists, pest control operators, bee inspectors and the scientific community. Specific topics to be addressed include locating and eliminating feral colonies by pest control operators, fire departments and police agencies; educating employees of agricultural enterprises about potential problems of more bees in their work environment; and training beekeepers in stock management.
4. Regulation with a budget of $355,000 per year. This amount is over and above the current budget of the Apiary bureau, which is about $350,000 per year.
Major thrusts were to implement regulations on
the beekeeping community that were reasonable and had support from the
industry. Specific areas were stock
beekeeper registration, certification, movement regulation and providing
information to other agencies which might aid in this effort, such as fire and
forestry departments. There is a
training component here as well for bee inspectors, beekeepers, law enforcement
agencies and others. Ironically, and to the detriment of the above program, an
Africanized honey bee population has yet to be detected in
In addition to this plan, the Division of Plant
Industry’s Apiary Bureau published an innovative effort to teach school
children and others about the Africanized honey bee in 1989. Called “Plan B, ”
this effort used 41 students in a
Plans For Public Safety in Other States:
“Call the fire department only when emergency medical services are needed. If someone has been stung by many bees at once or has an allergic reaction to a bee sting, call 9-1-1. Call the fire department if someone has become trapped in a building or car with lots of bees. Fire trucks are equipped with a foam that can be sprayed on the bees to drown them. DO NOT call the fire department to remove bee colonies or hives. If you want bees removed, look in the yellow pages under ‘bee removal’ or ‘beekeepers’.” 71
In California, the city of San Diego has
published a World Wide Web site that includes general information on
Africanized honey bees and suggestions on their removal from a premises.75 The University of California at Riverside
provides information on many aspects of Africanized honey bees.76 Perhaps most significant is that related to
stings. It emphasizes that how one gets
the stinger out is not as important as speed, and that rapid removal is the
best first aid to prevent delayed reactions.77 The information also includes a
Another area is firefighter safety.
Those attempting to manage
There are a significant number of World Wide Web sites that focus on the Africanized honey bee . Some are oriented to public safety, such as the one by the San Bernardino, California Safety Committee.80 Several other municipalities in California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas have also developed Web sites.81 The major beekeeping indexing site Bee Hoo also has a topical index on the subject.82 Another topical index is found at the Apis newsletter site.83 At least two companies are advertising protection devices against honey bee attacks. These products are the “bee protection bag”84 and “emergency-use insect veil”.85
Pest Control Companies are also marketing their
services in Africanized honey bee areas, including Arizona86, Nevada87
Besides individual states, other institutions have developed information on the Africanized honey bee. Of particular interest is the United States Armed forces.90 This publication uses the more neutral term AHB extensively:
“AHBs are a real and significant threat for those who must live with them. But they can be dealt with as long as the appropriate precautions and control measures are taken. This Technical Information Memorandum has been developed with the assistance of the Texas Agricultural Extension Service to provide Department of Defense pest management and public health officials with an understanding of honey bee biology, the potential impact of AHBs, and the measures we must undertake to assure the well being of our personnel. An informative video overview covering general AHB biology and personal safety from stings has been produced by the U.S. Army Academy of Health Sciences. Africanized Honey Bees, A 1701-92-0121 (TVT 8-223) runs 11:07 minutes and is available for loan from local training centers/video libraries and DPMIAC.”
Updated Safety and Medical Procedures:
The Africanized bee's increased defensive behavior has meant that different strategies must be in place not only in beekeeping operations, but also in Africanized honey bee areas with reference to personal safety and medical procedures. Advice concerning European honey bees has traditionally been conservative. Those undergoing attack were advised to move slowly away from the source, usually a disturbed colony. This is no longer true in Africanized honey bee areas. Now those attacked are directed to move as fast and as far as possible (run!) to escape being stung. This is because these bees tend to attack in greater numbers and will follow much longer distances than European bees.
Deaths due to honey bee stings have also traditionally been because of allergy and subsequent anaphylactic shock with European honey bees. Stories of those dying because of this tended not to be sensationalized; most were never covered by television or print media. However, because Africanized honey bees may attack en masse, a condition called toxic envenomation can occur.91 This means that the body has received so much venom, it may affect the circulatory and excretory systems.
“Treatment of multiple sting victims represents a serious challenge because of limited medical information and experience, and specialty consultation is indicated. Physicians need to be particularly aware of the potential for AHB patients to experience severe allergic and toxic reactions, and for complications developing up to several days after the stinging incident. Patients should be monitored closely for up to two weeks, or until all laboratory work normalizes, following apparent clinical recovery. The most aggressive management for severe cases is plasmapheresis (or exchange transfusion) which helps to remove circulating venom and/or mediators of inflammation, especially if done within 48 hours of stinging.
“Haemodialysis, although less effective, is an alternative modality (within first 48 hours) if plasmapheresis is not available. Other treatment options include aggressive intravenous fluids (e.g., 0.9 normal saline as a 20 ml/kg bolus followed by mannitol 25 gm IV (0.5 gm/kg child)), epinephrine (IV push 0.1-1.0 ml of 1:10,000 over 5 minutes), and urine alkalinization (in case of myoglobinuria). Diuretics may be considered in cases of pulmonary or cerebral edema. Dialysis has been recommended early in the treatment of ARF. For serum sickness, treatment includes systemic corticosteroids with antihistamines and analgesics.”92
Another area of concern is risk to pets from Africanized honey bees, especially when animals are confined and cannot escape. According to J. Schmidt and L. B.Hassen, reporting on the death of a dog,
“Death is the ultimate result of toxic envenomation. An untreated animal should be able to survive up to 13 stings/kg and will very likely die if it receives 25 or more stings/kg. We suggest using the following rule of thumb:
less than 14 stings/kg = survival
14-24 stings/kg = critical condition
more than 24 stings/kg = death
“Using this guideline, the dog described could have survived up to 481 stings but could not have survived more than 888. In this case, the dog received four times the number of stings required for almost certain death.”93
Again, logical first response teams for stinging incidents are firefighters.94 The use of soapy water instead of pesticides to control Africanized bee colonies is one of the newest technologies available to pest control operators and home owners.95
Other “at risk” populations may also be defined in the future. One example is that associated with those practicing the sport of mountain biking.96
Sensationalism and Africanized Honey Bees
The root cause of much of the general public's preoccupation with Africanized honey bees is the sensationalism that is associated with the use of “killer bees.” in popular magazines, articles, movies and television programs. Many objective observers, including educators, have been caught in this semantic-name trap. One example of this is the Insecta Inspecta World Wide Web site that, in general, portrays insects in a favorable, realistic light but still gives the “killer bee” a special status, such that it appears to separate this insect from honey bees altogether.97 Even so prestigious an organization as the Smithsonian has taken this approach in its Web encyclopedia: “The general appearance of Killer Bees (= Africanized Bees) is the same as common Honey Bees, but there are some distinctive physical differences between the two.”98
Perhaps the most expensive endeavor to purposefully enhance the killer bee image was Irwin Allen’s Movie, The Swarm, a production costing twelve million dollars in the years 1977 and 1978.99 According to original publicity in the Warner Brothers, Inc. press kit:,
“It was a prodigious motion picture full of high drama, dangerously frightening and awesomely suspenseful, brought to life by a cast of highly respected stars. The bees are the villains and “fill the screen with the horrifying whir of wing and their fuzzy black and gold presence. Audiences will experience the menacing sight and sound that only killer bees on the rampage can evoke.”
As if the bees weren’t enough, Mr. Irwin also
provided supplementary sensations.
“There is a terrifying train wreck, an atomic plant blast, the burning
of the city of
In response to the publicity from the movie, as well as the spin off in popular magazine articles and television programs ("The Savage Bees"), the United States Department of Agriculture produced two films purportedly to refute the sensationalism. In 1978, “Killer Bees: Fact or Fantasy” was released. Several years later a sequel, “Killer Bee Countdown,” was produced. Both were controversial in a number of ways and fell into the trap of re-enforcing the term “killer” in their title, further aggravating the situation in some people’s view.
At least one journalist appears to have
solidified his reputation in writing about these insects. In “My Life With
Killer Bees,”100 Ed Zuckerman details his efforts to get the real
story and also his experiment with selling “killer bee honey.” Some of his exploits were also detailed in
“The Big Buzz”101: The
article’s subtitle says it all: “The killer bees are ripping through
The killer name, as stated above, has drawn
journalists into its sensational trap on numerous occasions. For example, one article says “Who Can Stop
the Killer Bees” proclaims, “The feds have given up.
The Aggies (
Perhaps the most distributed publicity about Africanized honey bees may have come from comedy shows like “Saturday Night Live,” As Dr. Winston says “Who can forget John Belushi and his Mexican bandits, dressed up like ‘Keeeler Beeees,” demanding ‘Your pollen or your wife!’ “106
The fearsome, deserved or not, reputation of the
Africanized honey bee continues today in the new World Wide Web medium. Witness “Killer Bee Honey
Over four decades of misinformation and sensationalism have made killer bees part of the human collective psyche like no other insect. Whether time will be able to provide some realistic appraisal of the Africanized honey bee, so that the general public will be able to see it in its true biological or cultural significance, remains to be seen.
Managing the Africanized Honey Bee: Current Status
It has bee reported elsewhere in the publication
how Brazilians now see and manage Africanized honey bees. In general, these insects are now considered
a positive force in the modern development of Brazilian apiculture. This author remembers the comments of Helmuth Wiese, legendary Brazilian beekeeping expert, who
came to the
Efforts to manage the Africanized honey bee in
“Sinaloa beekeepers have adopted the new management practices recommended for managing Africanized bees, as follows:
"Use of bee suits and gloves when managing colonies.
Moving hives at night when relocation is necessary.
Relocating any apiaries previously close to buildings or roads. A minimum distance of 200 meters is recommended by the Mexican department of agriculture (SARH) and greater distances are preferred.
Feeding syrup to colonies when forage conditions are poor to discourage absconding.
“Queen rearing enables beekeepers to use colonies headed by a pure European queen, mated to local drones. As a result, the worker bees, who are the offspring of the queen and her mates, are a mixture of pure European bees and hybrids. Because honey bee queens mate with 10-20 males, each colony probably contains a mixture of both types of workers. Approximately two thirds of the colonies headed by these queens are reasonably ‘gentle’ (though not as gentle as most pure European colonies). One third are manageable but exhibit undesirable Africanized bee qualities (excessive defensiveness, excessive brood rearing at the expense of honey storage).” 111
Queen rearing is also an important activity in
other areas of
Perhaps the biggest lesson from Mexican beekeeping is that if beekeepers are allowed to continue their trade and are assisted in adapting to the new bees, then they will be able to supply the bees needed for pollination. This will go a long way to refute the notion that Africanized honey bees are poor pollinators in general.
Other Latin American Countries:
As information trickles out of tropical American countries where the Africanized honey bee has taken up residence, there is more and more reason to take the Brazilian and Mexican information to heart as a hopeful sign that beekeeping with this insect can be a profitable enterprise. One reason is that active invasion is now over for these countries; the situation has moved from a rapidly-changing one to being more orderly. These countries now have a resident stock of feral honey bees that will be relatively stable in number as the ecological niche becomes saturated. Thus, there is now a time of maturation as both the recently-arrived honey bees and human residents of these countries become acquainted and used to the presence of each other.
As an example, consider the situation in
This author wrote in the Apis newsletter,
bottom line in
To be fair, it is often difficult to adequately compare regions and, as any experienced beekeeper knows, differences in local climates and conditions can make a world of difference. In spite of advances in knowledge allowing Africanized honey bees to be routinely and effectively managed, problems associated with these bees continue in most Latin American countries. However, many of these areas, once preoccupied with honey bee defensive behavior and management, are now concerned with more fundamental issues such as transportation and other infrastructure issues.
Certainly, North American apiculture will change with the coming of the Africanized honey bee. It already has in some places, but in much less area so far than first predicted. There are significant efforts in states, where the bee exists, to educate the population and provide some public services (emergency training) and private enterprise solutions (pest control companies) to deal with this insect.116
In general, the number of
deaths due to stinging attacks by Africanized bees have been relatively
fewer than might be expected, even in
Fortunately, the initial furor over these
insects has ameliorated. Since 1999,
there have been relatively few sensationalized stinging episodes related to
these bees in the
“United States’stinging incidents resulting in serious injury to man or domestic animals are still widely reported in the press, as are also minor events in newly colonized areas. However, minor casualties do not always make local news in those communities where Africanized bees are well established. The Los Angeles Times (3/13/94) reported that The Tucson Citizen ‘ ... all but stopped reporting routine bee incidents’ as early as 1994.”119.
History shows, however, that with any publicized stinging incident, the latent sensationalism built up over decades tends to reassert itself. Thus, beekeepers, governmental officials and emergency response teams will need to keep themselves informed about these insects as they become more established. A most important activity will be to ensure that new employees are adequately trained.
There no longer is any national plan by the
Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) 120 to deal with
Africanized honey bees in the
Controversy concerning the insect will no doubt
continue. It is suggested by some that
the Canadian border remains closed to
Purposeful Introduction Risk
Despite its sensational reputation for defensive
behavior, the Africanized honey bee also has the reputation for an increased
tolerance to diseases and pests. Of
special significance are reports from
Until such time as a more robust and definitive
hypothesis is developed the reputation that the Africanized honey bee is more Varroa tolerant stands nevertheless. This increases the risk that some
enterprising beekeeper might on his own introduce Africanized bees via queen
introduction from elsewhere in the
There is little question that the Africanized
honey bee is here to stay in the
The true significance of the Africanized honey
bee biological revolution, however, has often been lost in the cultural changes
that have accompanied it. For the
majority of the human population in the
There continues to be a lack of information about what exactly is occurring in the biological sphere with reference to the Africanized honey bee. The insect's name, for example, has segued from “Brazilian” to “Africanized” to “African” and finally, the more neutral AHB, all to the confusion of the human lay population. Sophisticated tests have only established that the organism is indeed a honey bee (Apis mellifera) and appears to have all of the characteristics of its species, but with enormous variation. Most of the differences between this insect and its European cousins is in behavior, something insect taxonomy does not differentiate. Relatively new DNA analysis has also yielded few clues and is clouded by the fact that the Africanized honey bee interbreeds readily with its European cousins producing genetic hybrids, yet also retains the ability to maintain its own special characteristics (especially and most importantly its relatively greater defensive behavior). The lack of good scientific data on these honey bees has caused a good deal of confusion in scientific circles as well as the general public. The result has often been the pitting of one camp against another. Because culturing the honey bee is also a business, official and scientific uncertainty have also been incorporated into the beekeeper’s consciousness.
Scientific study has provided some idea as to how and why the Africanized honey bee appears to retain its “African” characteristics. DNA studies have shown, for example, that the Africanization process appears to be an asymmetric, one primarily of expanding African mother lines and secondarily through African paternal introgression (drone contribution) into European apiaries. In addition, physiological study reveals that, energetically speaking, hybrids between Africanized and European honey bees have trouble persisting in the wild, perhaps due to some genetic deficiency. In general, it is the metabolically enhanced (“souped up”) ability of the Africanized honey bee over its European cousins that may be responsible for much of its reputation from defensive behavior to swarming and absconding.
The story is also complicated by the fact that
the Africanized honey bee often displays erratic or unpredictable
behavior. This compromises its
manageability, the basis for modern beekeeping systems. Examples are widespread, especially the very
different reports of defensive behavior that has emerged from a large number of
observers in the field. The insect has
also defied experts’ analysis, especially in North America, where a decade
after its arrival, the insect has not migrated east of the
Historically, this extremely variable behavior has been the source of many stinging incidents. It is the reason beekeepers tend to abandon apiculture when the Africanized honey bee first arrives, although many take it up again as information on how to manage these bees becomes available. Wholesale abandonment of beekeeping in areas undergoing Africanization also contributes to the reputation of these bees as poor honey producers and inadequate pollinators. In many areas, honey production per colony does decline, principally because of increased swarming and absconding rates. Although production per colony may suffer, there are many more colonies doing the producing and so gross yield may actually increase. The bees are just as efficient pollinators as their European cousins, however, because they are often difficult to manipulate, managed pollination on any kind of scale can suffer.
The sensationalized reputation of the
Africanized honey bee is quickly established as it invades an area, but it all
too often does not recede as the insect-human interaction matures. Both the general and beekeeping public
historically quickly adapt to the fact that Africanized honey bees are in their
environment to stay. This is certainly
the case in
The Brazilian situation has parallels in most of
the American tropics. Where once, the
Africanized honey bee was a pariah, it has now become somewhat of a savior of
the beekeeping industry in many countries.
This has so far, however, not happened in North America nor in temperate
The saga of the Africanized honey bee in the
Except for a few enclaves where Africanized honey bees have become established, the rest of the North American continent continues to remain unaware of and unaffected by their existence. Inevitably, however, some stinging incident or report of their detection will provoke press coverage in the future. This will no doubt bring again into the human consciousness the idea that these valuable and interesting insects exist for one reason, to attack and threaten the human population. And there will be no better proof of this for most people than headlines loudly proclaiming their undeserved name, “killer bees.”
4. Sanford, M. T., APIS Newsletter, University of Florida, Volume 14, Number 4, April 1996 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis96/apapr96.htm#1>.
Winston, M. L., “The impact of a tropical-evolved honey bee in temperate
climates of North America,” in Africanized
Honey Bees and Bee Mites,
6. White, W. “The bees from
8. Spivak, M., “The Africanization process in
12. Hellmich, R. and T.
E. Rinderer, “Beekeeping in
13. Spivak, M. Ibid., pp. 137-155 <http://www.ent.agri.umn.edu/Faculty/spivak/spivcv.htm >
14. Dietz, A., “Honey bees of the world,” in The Hive and the Honey Bee, J. Graham ed., Hamilton, IL, Dadant & Sons Inc, 1992, p. 44.
16. Dietz, A., Ibid. p. 47.
18. Dietz, A. Ibid. p. 46.
20. Sanford, M. T., APIS Newsletter, University of Florida, Volume 12, Number 7, July 1994 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis94/apjul94.htm#1>
23. Spivak, M. Ibid. p. 150.
24. Mussen, E.C, From the UC Apiaries,
27. Sanford, M. T., APIS Newsletter, University of Florida, Volume 11, Number 6, June 1993 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis93/apjun93.htm#1>
28. Winston, M., Killer Bees,
29. Final Report: Committee on the African Honey Bee, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., June, 1972, p. 4.
31. Winston. M., Ibid Killer Bees, p. 70.
32. Ruttner, F., Biogeography and Taxonomy of Honeybees (Springer Verlag, 1988).
33. Daly, H., “Systematics
and identification of Africanized honey bees,” in The “African” Honey Bee, Spivak et. al. eds,
34. Daly, H. Ibid., p. 26.
37. Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 44 (1-2), pp. 1-6, 1998 <http://actazool.nhmus.hu/publication/actazool/ac44_1-2.html>
38. Daly, H. Ibid., p. 32.
39. Daly, H., Ibid., p. 35.
40. Sanford, M. T., APIS Newsletter, University of Florida, Volume 8, Number 2, February 1990 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis90/apfeb90.htm#1>
41. Hepburn, H.R. and S.E. Radloff,
Honeybees of Africa,
42. Hepburn and Radloff, Ibid. p. 41.
43. Winston, M., Killer Bees, Ibid., p. 3.
44. Hall, H.G., “Genetic characterization of
honey bees through DNA analysis,” in The
“African” Honey Bee, Spivak et.
45. Sanford, M. T., APIS Newsletter, University of Florida, Volume 8, Number 2, February 1990 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis90/apfeb90.htm#1>
46. Hellmich and Rinderer, The African bee, Ibid., p. 108.
47. Sanford, M. T., APIS Newsletter, University of Florida, Volume 11, Number 12, December 1993 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis93/apdec93.htm#4>
48. Fletcher, D.,
“Interdependence of genetics and ecology in a solution to the African bee
problem,” in The “African” Honey Bee,
Spivak et. al. eds,
50. Sommer, P.G., Proceedings of the Eleventh Brazilian Beekeeping Congress, Teresina, November 26 through 30, 1996, as reported in The Speedy Bee, February 1979 <http://home.earthlink.net/~beeactor/papers_htm/Meetings/teres.htm>.
51. Anais de IV Encontro Sobre Abelhas, Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, 6-9 September 2000.
52. Soares, A. E. and D. De Jong eds., Pesquisas Com Abelhas No Brasil: Brazilian Bee Research, Sociedad Brasileira de Genética, 1992.
53. Stort, A., “Comportamento de abelhas africanizadas,” Anais de II Encontro Sobre Abelhas, , Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, 6-9 June 1996, pp. 171-179 (Author’s translation).
54. Soares, A., Proceedings of the Eleventh Brazilian Beekeeping Congress, Teresina, November 26 through 30, 1996, as reported in The Speedy Bee, February 1979 <http://home.earthlink.net/~beeactor/papers_htm/Meetings/teres.htm>.
55. Cordovez, E., The Handling of the Africanized Honeybee by the Panama Canal Commission, American Farm Bureau Research Foundation Africanized Honey Bee Symposium, Atlanta, GA February 11-12, 1986.
56. Quoted from American Bee Journal, 1986 <http://www.beesource.com/pov/ahb/beebarrier.htm>
58. Schmidt, J. O., S. C. Thoenes and R. Hurley, “Swarm traps, an idea whose time has come,” Bee Culture, Vol. 118 (1990), pp. :217-219,223.
60. Senft, D., “Bee traps go commercial,” USDA Agricultural Research Magazine, March 1977 <http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/1997/beetrap0497.htm>
64. Sanford, M. T., APIS Newsletter, University of Florida, Volume 10, Number 1, January 1992 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis92/apjan92.htm#2>
65. Mussen, E.C, From the
66. Sanford, M. T., APIS Newsletter, University of Florida, Volume 8, Number 1, January 1990 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis90/apjan90.htm#1>
67. Sanford, M. T., Information on the African Bee, Fact Sheet ENY-114, Entomology and Nematology Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Reviewed March 1995. <http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG113>
95. Sanford, M. T., APIS Newsletter, University of Florida, Volume 10, Number 5, May 1992 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis92/apmay92.htm#2>
100. Zuckerman, E., “My life with killer bees,” Buzz Magazine, 1995
101. Zuckerman, E., “The big buzz, Outside Magazine, July 1989
102. Zuckerman, E., “The killer bees,”Rolling Stone magazine, July 1977
105. “Here come the killer bees,” International Wildlife Magazine, May-June 1987
106. Winston, M., Ibid. Killer Bees, p. 6
110. Weise, H., Apicultura, Guaíba RS: Livrariae Editora Agropecuária Ltda., 2000 <http://www.edipec.com.br/>
111. California Agriculture 50:24-28, 1996,<http://entmuseum9.ucr.edu/bees/sinaloa.html>
113. Stearman, A., “Working the ‘Africans’in
114. Caron, D. Africanized Honey Bees in the Americas, A.I. Root Co., 2001.
115. Sanford, M. T., APIS Newsletter, University of Florida, Volume 18, Number 9, September 2000 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis_2000/apsep_2000.htm#1>
117. Rinderer, T. E., Africanized honey bees and agromedicine, Journal of Agromedicine, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1995, p. 76.
121. Stibick, J. N. L., Animal and Plant Health Inspection
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123. Sanford, M. T., APIS Newsletter, University of Florida, Volume 15, Number 5, May 1997 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis97/apmay97.htm#2>
124. Sanford, M. T., APIS Newsletter, University of Florida, Volume 17, Number 9, September 1999 <http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis99/apsep99.htm#2>
125. White, W. Ibid.