Africanized Honey Bees

With the recent press release from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, concerning the trapping of Africanized Bees in Evangeline Parish, we felt that some facts about these insects may help people better understand and cope with the situation.

Africanized bees were first collected in the US, in 1979, presumably from ships docking at US ports. As the press release states they were found in Louisiana. In July 2005 the trapping system that is now in place by the LDAF (Louisiana Dept. of Agriculture & Forestry), is to monitor any movement of this insect, through trapping and laboratory positive identification of the insects. There has been progressive movement of this insect from South America, through Central America, and Mexico, into Texas, with continued expansion taking place. The environment, primarily colder weather appears to be one of the main limiting factors with the progression of the Africanized bees.

They have been labeled “Killer Bees” due to their very aggressive nature, when disturbed or threatened. These Africanized bees are smaller than their very common European Honey Bee cousins, and their venom is no more toxic than a regular honey bee. They may even have less venom per bee because of their smaller size. Because of their aggressiveness, and the fact that they attack en masse, and continue to be aggressive longer, an individual or animal, will get stung many more times if he disturbs an Africanized colony, as compared to a European Honeybee colony.

In most bee colonies, there may be 85,000 - 100,00 bees in a hive. This population changes over every 6 weeks, which makes these insects very adaptable to climatic changes. In the hives the queen will mate one time, and may mate with eight or nine drones. She can store sperm from several drones in layers, which accounts for different color patterns in bees, all within the same hive. When the older queen leaves the hive, she will usually take half of the hive with her. This is called swarming, and this is how the bees propagate, by leaving the hive and looking for a new location for a hive or colony. This usually occurs from about April 1-June 15.

Occasionally when the queen leaves, the entire colony leaves with her, this is called “abscounding”, and Africanized bees do this very often. This is one reason Africanized bees have had such rapid movement throughout the ranges they frequent. Africanized bees although smaller, are usually laboratory identified according to wing measurements, cell measurements, and spines on wings identified. Many of these identification procedures had to be revamped once the Africans began mating with the European bees.

A question we get asked often is, “What to do if you see bees or are attacked by bees?”

Before we answer let’s understand these facts: Bees do not see as you do, they see movement. Also , since bees do not like dark colors, they will attack them. Bees can fly at 15 mph, and are also attracted by, vibration, heat, and exhaust fumes. So what do you do if attacked ? Pull your shirt over your head, covering your nose, and partially your eyes, and RUN ! covering your nose and eyes, because the bees will swarm to those areas, and disorient you by stinging there. Secondly run through tall grass, weeds, bushes, etc. anything that will move, the bees will get disoriented by all the movement and confused as to which movement to follow. If you have anything in your hands, throw it in the air to try to disorient the bees and get them attracted to whatever you drop. If you have any type of mosquito spray containing DEET, spray it into the air at the bees. This will usually deter the bees, and helps to break up the attack. If the worse happens and you do get stung, remember to scrape the stinger and venom sack out . Do not attempt to pull it out as you will inject more of the venom into your body as you squeeze to pull the sac and stinger out.

If you do see a swarm of bees, what should you do?

First, note exactly where they are and leave them alone. If they are in an area you and people around you can avoid, do so. Many times a swarm like this will leave an area just as quickly as they arrived. If they need to be dealt with, call a beekeeper to try and move the swarm, do not attempt to do it yourself. A list of beekeepers can be found on the web site,

If the honeybees are very aggressive, call the LDAF local office at (337) 948-0230. Also, call our office at (337) 363-5646.
8/29/2007 8:41:35 PM
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