Thursday, February 12, 2009

Africanized bees? I thought all bees were the same.

This world never ceases to amaze. There is this latest story of Africanized bees that have been discovered in Utah. And the bees have been delt with as aggressively as black offenders are handled.

Being African ofcourse I wanted to know more about these Africanized bees. So I did a search and did I get educated. I didn't realize that African bees had a different temperement from European ones. I thought all bees were the same. As a child, we were once locked out of our house because of bees gone nuts. So I always wondered about people out here working with bees albeit protected, I didn't know it was because the bees out here had less attitude.
Anyway I went to Wiki and the info on African bees sounds like a list of Black stereotypes. This stuff is quite funny.

The Africanized bee in the western hemisphere descended from 26 Tanzanian queen bees (A. m. scutellata) accidentally released by a replacement bee-keeper in 1957 near Rio Claro, São Paulo State in the southeast of Brazil from hives operated by biologist Warwick E. Kerr, who had interbred honey bees from Europe and southern Africa. Hives containing these particular queens were noted to be especially defensive. Kerr was attempting to breed a strain of bees that would be better adapted to tropical conditions (i.e., more productive) than the European bees used in North America and southern South America. The hives from which the bees were released had special excluder grates which were in place to prevent the larger queen bees from getting out but to allow the drones free access to mate with the queen. Unfortunately, following the accidental release, the African queens eventually mated with local drones, and their descendants have since spread throughout the Americas.

The Africanized hybrid bees have become the preferred type of bee for beekeeping in Central America and in tropical areas of South America because of improved productivity. However, in most areas the Africanized hybrid is initially feared because it tends to retain certain behavioral traits from its African ancestors that make it less desirable for domestic beekeeping. Specifically (as compared with the European bee types), the Africanized bee:

-Tends to swarm more frequently.
-Is more likely to migrate as part of a seasonal response to lowered food supply.
-Is more likely to "abscond"—the entire colony leaves the hive and relocates—in response to repeated intrusions by the beekeeper.
-Has greater defensiveness when in a resting swarm.
-Lives more often in ground cavities than the European types.
-Guards the hive aggressively, with a larger alarm zone around the hive.
-Has a higher proportion of "guard" bees within the hive.
-Deploys in greater numbers for defense and pursues perceived threats over much longer distances from the hive.
-Cannot survive extended periods of forage deprivation, preventing introduction into areas with harsh winters or extremely dry late summers.