African Bees – Know the Facts
Killer bees, also known as Africanized Honey Bees were first identified in 2002. They are now well established in South Florida and several other areas of the state. While these bees are less predictable and a bit more dangerous than European bees, they don’t deserve the title “killer bees.” But for their own safety, Florida residents will need to gain an understanding of African honey bees.
African bees are known for being extremely protective of their nests. Killer bees are more easily provoked than European honeybees. They defend a larger area around their nest. Africanized bees swarm to the defense in much greater numbers, and they chase perceived intruders much greater distances. This combination of traits can easily surprise unwary people and animals with deadly results.
African bees look extremely similar to regular bees. They have bodies covered with fuzz, and an abdomen ringed with black stripes. Africanized honey bees are slightly smaller than European bees, otherwise they look so similar that even scientists and beekeepers cannot tell the difference. Aside from genetic analysis, comparison of as many as twenty different body measurements is the only way to know for certain which bees are killer bees. The best, and safest, advice is to simply avoid all bees.
European bees and African bees prefer different types of nesting locations. Smaller nesting locations are preferred by African bees because they have smaller colonies. So they end up nesting in places like water meter boxes, inside cement blocks, larger flower pots and cavities in the ground that European bee colonies would not normally use. Unfortunately, many of these locations are provided for killer bees by humans and explain why encounters between African bees and people are more frequent than for regular bees.
Honey bees in the United States produce about 0 million worth of honey annually. The Florida honey industry is ranked in the top five nationally with an annual worth of more than million. Around 0 is generated in bee pollination services for every dollar of honey produced in Florida. Farmers depend on pollination by honeybees to the tune of an estimated billion annually in the U.S. according to a recent study.
It would take a significant number of bee stings to prove deadly. Estimates from experts run between 5 to 10 stings per pound for a normal, healthy person. For a 150 pound person, that’s 750-1500 stings. The typical reaction to a sting is swelling around the stung area. That’s NOT the same as an allergic reaction. Those people with an allergy to bee stings are in the minority. They are less than 1 percent of the population.
You can significantly reduce the pain involved in bee stings by treating them properly. Don’t let stingers remain in the skin. Venom can continue to be pumped into the body for up to 10 minutes. Remove stingers quickly by scraping in a sideways motion with a fingernail or credit card. Never tweeze or pinch stingers when removing as that could squeeze even more venom into the body.
To reduce the risk of encountering African bees on your property, you must be proactive. Inspect your property, note all possible nesting sites, and then eliminate them one at a time. If it’s an object that can be removed, then remove it. Otherwise block or seal up any openings. All gaps larger than 1/8 of an inch must be completely sealed. Larger openings like vents, tree cavities, or water meters, require the installation of screen over the openings.
Because Africanized bees are now well established in Florida, any wild colony of bees must be considered potential killer bees. The State of Florida is now recommending that certified pest control operators eliminate any wild bee hives found. Should you locate a colony of bees on your property, contact a certified pest control operator who has a bee removal expert on staff.
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