What's the buzz?
Africanized Honey Bees The recent press release from the KDA about “Kansans Braces for Migration of Killer Bees” might have you thinking that swarms of highly dangerous bees are an imminent threat to Kansans. However while there is a chance that there could potentially be a chance to find Africanized bee swarms in southern Kansas, no one is sure when or if that will happen. Currently the nearest detections of Africanized bees have been in Roger Wills, Dewey and Blaine Counties, which puts them approximately 60 miles from the Kansas border. Since swarms can travel several miles it is possible that a swarm could reach Kansas, however, when that will happen is unknown. Just what is an Africanized or “Killer Bee”? Queens of the Africanized honey bees were brought to Brazil from Africa in 1957 for breeding studies. These queen bees escaped and their hybrid crosses evolved through natural selection in an extremely hostile environment. Both weather and predators, including man, have contributed to the genetic selection of a honey bee quite different from the honey bee of the U.S. beekeeper. Being a “wild” honey bee, its characteristics are those that have enhanced its chances for survival. This evolutionary process has resulted in several undesirable behavior traits. The Africanized honey bee quickly defends its hive and will pursue intruders longer distances than the European honey bee. The sting of one Africanized honey bee is no more potent than the sting of a single European honey bee. Most stinging incidents have involved animals, but on rare occasions humans have been attacked. Stinging attacks occur only when the Africanized honey bee nest, or territory, is threatened by the noise or vibration of an intruder such as tractors or other vehicles. Honey bees increase the number of colonies and the probability of survival by swarming. Africanized honey bees swarm more often than European honey bees resulting in the Africanized honey bee’s gaining a population advantage over the European honey bee. The Africanized honey bee has spread northward from the original release in Brazil to the southern tip of Texas by October 1990. Although Africanized honey bees defend their colonies faster and in greater numbers, the name “Killer Bees” is a bit of an exaggeration as long as precautions are made not to disturb an active swarm. Since the Africanized honey bee is so similar to the common European honey bee, specialized tests are need to tell them apart. The Kansas Department of Agriculture has plans to set up a lab to use DNA analysis to accurately distinguish between the two. While the likelihood of finding a swarm of Africanized honey bees in Kansas is probably low, we do want people to be on the look out for bee swarms especially if they are along the Oklahoma boarder, or it they are thought to be overly aggressive. If you live near the Kansas/Oklahoma boarder, see a large number of bees in a given area, see bees swarming, or hear loud buzzing coming from an enclosed area, and suspect that they could be Africanized honey bees DO NOT attempt to collect a sample of the bees or to destroy the colony yourself. Instead, contact the Kansas Department of Agriculture at (785) 862-2180 who can help collect samples and/or eradicate the swarm or contact your local K-State Research and Extension Office for additional information and help in assessing the problem. Be aware that it takes specialized equipment to safely collect a sample, because of the defensive nature of Africanized honey bees (or honey bees in general).