Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Aug. 16, 2007)
Africanized honeybees invade Florida
Extremely dangerous and aggressive Africanized honeybees have become established in
Tampa Bay. Prepare a safety plan for your family and work place.
|Photo by Rick Tremmel
|The gentle, calm European
Honeybee collects pollen from a flower.
Africanized bees were discovered in Florida in 2002. The 2003 studies indicated a
distinct increase in colonies. Five years ago the Africanized honeybee hybridized
with the calmer, gentler European honeybee.
But recently the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported
there have been numerous findings of Africanized bee nests and swarms throughout
As well, there have been reports of stinging incidents. An Africanized honeybee
attack poses a six to ten times increase in stings and may follow you for three
hundred yards to a quarter of a mile.
Africanized bees were imported to Brazil in 1950 as an experiment to breed a
hardier bee for tropical climates. After being accidentally released, they spread
to South and Central America, Mexico eventually migrating to the south western U.S.
Due to the locations and ports that Africanized honeybees have been discovered, it
is believed they arrived in Florida via cargo ships and shipments from South and
Africanized honeybees (AHB) differ from European honey bees (EHB) in behavior and
habitat requirements, but visually look the same. EHBs, which are managed by
professional bee keepers, are essential for pollinating and growing crops in
We are all familiar with the typical white honeybee boxes. It is crucial that we
continue to protect the European honeybee to sustain agriculture in Florida. It is
also imperative to control the Africanized honeybee. These insects will become a
permanent fixture in Florida. It is vital that residents and visitors be aware of
the dangers associated with them and learn how to protect themselves and their pets
Africanized honeybees differ in many ways from European honeybees. Their habitat
requirements are use less space to build their nests which can be found in almost
any opening or cavity, including eaves, cracks in walls, barbecue grills, boats,
sheds, utility boxes, concrete power poles, and many other locations near
Because of the smaller space requirement, Africanized honeybees have faster
colony growth and spend much less time producing honey. AHBs swarm and
abscond more frequently. Absconding means they move from their nest site for
another. AHBs can inhabit a nest the size of a coffee cup, as opposed to the
EHBs colony size ranging up to ten gallons.
AHBs behave differently from EHBs. Africanized bees are extremely
dangerous to Floridians, pets and livestock because of their easily inflamed and
They are exceedingly defensive in protecting their nests. As well, AHBs may
remain in attack mode for up to twenty four hours after being disturbed
and to a distance of one hundred and fifty yards from the nest colony. They are
easily agitated by noise from items such as lawnmowers, chain saws and weed-eaters,
poising a danger and heightened concern for personnel working in construction,
landscapers, surveyors, military, sports and rescue. Animals such as dogs kenneled
in a back yard or horses corralled unable to escape these attacks are at tremendous
Check out any area before you use it. Be especially cautious around unused sports
and recreation training facilities, barbecue grills and sheds.
What should you do if you are being attacked by Africanized honeybees? RUN,
RUN, then RUN some more! is the motto of state officials and entomologists
such as Dr. William Kern, Jr., Ft. Lauderdale R.E.C., Entomology and Nematology,
University of Florida.
Run to the nearest closed vehicle or structure. Ten bees in a car are preferred to
being outside with three-thousand intensely angry, stinging bees in attack mode. As
well, do not jump into a pool or pond.
Dr. Kern advises, They will wait for you.
You will come up out of the water only to find you have surfaced right into the
swarm. Small children and the elderly are especially put at risk since they
cant run as fast or as far. Remember AHBs may follow you for three
hundred yards to a quarter of a mile. Prepare a safety plan for your family and
Seek immediate emergency medical help if you have been attacked by AHBs. Do
not squeeze the stinger. Squeezing releases more poison into your system. Remove
stinger with a scraping action. Wash affected area with soap and water. Applying
ammonia may reduce the pain. Apply ice pack to reduce swelling. If you suspect a
colony of AHBs notify a professional. NEVER try to remove an AHB colony
yourself. Improper removal is extremely dangerous. AHBs pose a hazard, not to
only you, but to your neighbors, your neighbors children and the rescue and
first response teams that will be called to try and save you.
As for first response teams, paramedics, firefighters, emergency medical
technicians and police, the University of Florida has prepared an invaluable
must see video: What Every First Responder Needs to Know About
Africanized Honey Bees, Presented by Dr. William Kern, Jr., University of
Floridas New Motto 2007: Bee Smart Bee Safe - Back to Nature.
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.