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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a Master Beekeeper! Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.


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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Africanized Bees Now in South Georgia

Today in Catch the Buzz, Kim Flottum reported that Africanized bees have now been found in Georgia.  Here's the sad story in an article about the man who was killed in the bee incident.  And here's the article about the identification of the bees.

So that everyone doesn't run for cans of Raid, here are some specifics not stated in the Catch the Buzz article:

The Africanized bees were found in Dougherty County which is in south Georgia near the Florida border.  The Albany area in Dougherty County is about 80 miles north of Florida.  Dougherty County is 204 miles almost directly south of my house.  So these bees were well south of Atlanta and the Atlanta area.

Africanized bees have been in Florida for a long time.  Until this incident we have had no Africanized bees discovered in our state.

Georgia has been expecting the Africanized bee to arrive in our state at some point.  In several talks at the Metro Atlanta bee meetings over the last three years, I've heard Dr. Delaplane say that we will have them in Georgia in the next few years. There are swarm boxes on the border of Florida and Georgia that are checked periodically for Africanized swarm inhabitation.

Honey bee hives managed by beekeepers in the state of Georgia are the first and best defense against an area becoming Africanized. Managed bees dilute AHB populations, prevent AHBs from taking over European honey bee hives, and AHBs are less attracted to areas where other foragers exist.

According to Jennifer Berry of the University of Georgia bee lab, the Africanized bees will have a difficult time surviving the winters of the Atlanta area.  They didn't develop in parts of the world where the winter requires cluster behavior so they don't know how to cluster as tightly as European bees and don't store supplies as well.

We may never see them here (in the Atlanta area) because of our winter temperatures, but they are certainly likely to establish hives in the southern part of the state near the Florida border.

Since the bees that killed this man were determined to be Africanized, this is at least one incident of that variety of bee in our state.  The guidelines for dealing with this type of bee found in Catch the Buzz are good for all of us to know.

I remember hearing Jamie Ellis, Ph.D. give this advice several times about the Africanized bee.  He said that if you are confronted with a swarm of Africanized bees, RUN.  He also suggested that you jump in your truck or car and close all open windows, doors, etc.

He pointed out that it would not be good to exit the truck just because a bee or two got into the truck with you - better to be stung by those few bees than jump out of the truck to get away from those few, only to find yourself attacked by the colony of thousands waiting for you outside the truck!

The incident in Albany is just one isolated incident and does not condemn the honey bee in Georgia.  Our well-managed bees throughout the state are important for pollination, helpful to our lives and good to have around.

Let's not let this cause a bee-panic but let's do be reminded of how important it is to know our bees in our own managed hives and recognize the essential job of bee-ing a good beekeeper.

3 comments:

  1. Good information, thanks for dispelling some of the myths and alleviate some fears about bees in general.

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  2. Linda: Actually, North Carolina had one reported colony of Africanized bees, but it appears they hitched a ride on a cargo ship that arrived from Honduras. That was several years ago. But I wonder how long it will be, with so many people buying packaged bees from places like Texas and Louisiana and Florida, before other states start reporting AHB sightings? I already read where queens purchased from those states can sometimes exhibit AHB traits, including the usually docile Buckfast bees, and have to be removed and the colonies requeened. Are you hearing anything about that at your meetings? Are they afraid that out of state bee packages may include the AHB?

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  3. According to Jennifer Berry, the africanized bee hasn't evolved to be able to survive winters - they don't know how to cluster. So the best news is that above the latitude where Atlanta is (and of course, NC, these bees can't survive the winter.

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