Michael Faulkner, Director
499 NW 5th Ave.  Okeechobee, FL  34972
Phone: (863) 763-3212     Fax: (863) 763-1569
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Information about Africanized Honeybees:

The African Honey Bee


Why is the African bee called the 'killer' bee?
Although all honey bees will sting when their nest is threatened by invaders, African bees defend their nests with less provocation, in greater numbers and for longer distances than their cousins, the docile European honey bees that we have in the U.S.
How else is the African bee different from our domestic European bee?
The African bee is slightly smaller than our domestic bee, but it takes a laboratory test to measure the difference. A single African bee sting is no more venomous than a single European bee sting. The most important difference is in their behavior. African bees produce more offspring, defend their nests much more fiercely and in greater numbers and are more likely to abandon the nest (abscond) when threatened by predators or adverse environmental conditions.
How did African bees come to North America?
Researchers brought the African bees to Brazil in the 1950s in an attempt to improve the productivity of Brazilian bees. A large wild population quickly developed and spread through South America, Central America and Mexico.
What happens now that African bees are in Florida?
The Africanized honey bee (AHB) population has grown and will continue to grow in Florida due to its numerous pathways into the state and the lack of effective eradication products or techniques. The Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, in cooperation with other agricultural stakeholders, is developing the tools to protect the beekeeping industry and educate the public on how to learn to live with this potentially dangerous insect. At some point, the defensive behavior of these bees will become more common.
Will African bees try to hurt people?
No bees try to hurt people. They are simply defending their territory. If people disturb the hive or if a hive is accidentally disturbed, the bees are likely to react adversely. Generally, the chances of being struck by lightning are far greater than injury from any stinging insect.
How should people avoid African bees?
Avoid all bees, just as you would any stinging insect - scorpion or spider - or a poisonous snake. In the case of bees, awareness is important. Never climb a large tree or kick a felled tree or stump. Do not roll a large rock or log until checking if foraging bees are entering and leaving the area. When hiking in the country, keep an escape route in mind at all times.
How do you get away from stinging bees?
RUN. Bees tend to sting the face and head, so try to cover your nose and mouth with your hands while running. Never stand still or get yourself boxed into a place outdoors where you cannot escape the attacking bees. SEEK SHELTER. Run for an enclosed building or vehicle. DO NOT LOCK THE DOORS! Others may be trying to escape the bees as well. Bees that do get inside usually become disoriented and go to the light at the windows.
What is Florida doing about the African bee?
For the last decade, Florida has been surveying for the AHB and established the country's first AHB detection program that is jointly operated by the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The program involves placing bait hives in ports, and educating ships' crews and dockworkers to identify and report suspicious swarms. Today, nearly 500 bait hives are in place throughout the state, primarily in port areas, along Interstate-10 and on the Florida/Alabama border. The bait hives are checked on a three-week cycle based on the reproduction habits of the AHB. In addition, the Department is participating in developing educational outreach programs to inform the public about the potential dangers of the African bees.
What will the African bee mean to the state of Florida?
Florida's honey industry is consistently ranked among the top five in the nation with an annual worth of more than $13 million. Honey bee pollination is of even greater value, enabling farmers nationwide to harvest a bounty of crops from soybeans to avocados. When African bees become established here, beekeepers' bees may have less forage areas. If stinging incidents occur without public understanding of the threat, unwarranted fear could result in an unnecessary curtailing of beekeeping operations. However, if the public is willing to learn some basic safety measures and the necessity of reporting feral (wild) swarms, and if the beekeepers, regulatory and public safety agencies are willing to take on additional responsibilities, we will be able to safely co-exist with the African bees.
Do managed bee hives (kept by beekeepers) help stop African bees?
Yes, managed hives are the first and best defense against an area becoming Africanized. Managed bees dilute AHB populations, prevent AHB take over of European honey bee hives, and AHB are less attracted to areas were other foragers exist.


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