Georgia Department of Agriculture

Africanized honeybees found & destroyed in Bainbridge

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Entomological tests have confirmed that a suspect feral colony of honeybees found and destroyed in Bainbridge in May was the Africanized honeybee strain.

“This is the second feral colony of Africanized honeybees in Georgia,” said Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black. The bees have been in Texas since 1990 and have spread to numerous other states. There has been an established breeding population in Florida since 2005.

Traps have been put in place to see if there are other Africanized bees in the area. Local beekeepers and local emergency personnel are being notified. No other Africanized bees have been found.

“Beekeepers are our first and best line of defense against these invaders. Our beekeepers are the ones who will be able to monitor and detect any changes in bee activity,” said Commissioner Black.

“Honeybees are a valuable ally for farmers and are necessary to pollinate many of our crops. It is estimated that one-third of our diet relies on honeybee pollination,” said Commissioner Black. “People can coexist with the Africanized honeybee by learning about the bee and its habits, supporting beekeeping efforts and taking a few precautions,” he added. Tips for dealing with Africanized honeybees may be found on the Georgia Department of Agriculture website.

Africanized honeybees are a hybrid of African and European honeybees. They are extremely defensive of their nest (also referred to as a colony or hive) and for this reason are sometimes called “killer bees.” Large numbers of them sometimes sting people or livestock with little provocation.

Because Africanized honeybees look almost identical to European honeybees, the bees from the Bainbridge colony 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. Department of Agriculture identification test (the complete morphometrics test) to confirm the bees’ identity.

Africanized honeybees are the result of an experiment that went awry in Brazil in the 1950s. Researchers were trying to create a honeybee better suited to tropic conditions. A few of the African bees escaped and began hybridizing with European honeybees. The hybrid “Africanized” honeybees (so named because they get their extremely defensive nature from the African honeybee) began colonizing South America and Central America, then Mexico and the U.S.

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