CATCH THE BUZZ
Africanized Honeybees Found in Georgia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 21, 2010
More on the Story Released Here Yesterday
Entomological tests have confirmed that Africanized honeybees were responsible for the death of an elderly man in Dougherty County last week. News reports say the man accidentally disturbed a feral colony of bees with his bulldozer and that he received more than 100 stings.
“This is the first record of Africanized honeybees in Georgia,” said Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin.
Africanized honeybees are a hybrid of African and European honeybees. Because of their extremely defensive nature regarding their nest (also referred to as a colony or hive), they are sometimes called “killer bees.” Large numbers of them sometimes sting people or livestock with little provocation.
The Africanized honeybee and the familiar European honeybee (Georgia’s state insect) look the same and their behavior is similar in some respects. Each bee can sting only once, and there is no difference between Africanized honeybee venom and that of a European honeybee. However, Africanized honeybees are less predictable and more defensive than European honeybees. They are more likely to defend a wider area around their nest and respond faster and in greater numbers than European honeybees.
Africanized honeybees first appeared in the U.S. in Texas in 1990. Since then they have spread to New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida and now Georgia. Entomologists and beekeepers have been expecting the arrival of these bees in Georgia for several years. There has been an established breeding population in Florida since 2005.
Because Africanized honeybees look almost identical to European honeybees, the bees from the Dougherty County incident had to be tested to accurately ascertain they were the Africanized strain. The Georgia Department of Agriculture sent samples of the bees to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services which has the capability to do FABIS (fast African bee identification system) testing and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture identification test (the complete morphometrics test) to confirm the bees’ identity.
“Georgia beekeepers are our first and best line of defense against these invaders. They are the ones who will be able to monitor and detect any changes in bee activity,” said Commissioner Irvin.
“The Georgia Department of Agriculture is going to continue its trapping and monitoring of bee swarms to try to find where any Africanized honeybees are,” said Commissioner Irvin. “We also want to educate people about what to do in case they encounter a colony of Africanized honeybees. Georgians can visit our website for more information. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service has a publication on Africanized honeybees that is available online (http://pubsadmin.caes.uga.edu/files/pdf/B%201290_2.PDF) or at Extension offices.”
Hives of European honeybees managed by beekeepers play an important role in our lives. These bees are necessary for the pollination of many crops. One-third of our diet relies on honeybee pollination.
People can coexist with the Africanized honeybee by learning about the bee and its habits, supporting beekeeping efforts and taking a few precautions.
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