View Full Version : africanized queens taking over colonies

02-10-2011, 03:26 PM
So I moved down here to west Texas and since being down here have heard from a couple of different people that the africanized bees will actually take over your hive. One person said you need to check to make sure an africanized queen has not moved in. So I guess I am a bit confused I have never heard or read anything like this in the studying that I have done. Do africanized queens just fly out, mate and then invade other colonies killing the existing Queen. Also has anyone requeened captured africanized swarms. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank You


02-10-2011, 03:58 PM
I had a hive last summer that was doing well during routine inspection. I was able to find the marked queen, and no queen cells were present. 14 days later I went back to the hive and the bees appeared to be overly aggressive. In front of the hive were a very large amount of dead bees. I opened up the hive and the marked queen was gone, and another queen was in the hive, and unmarked. I marked the queen and went back 14 days later...and the hive was very aggressive. I replaced the queen and after 30 days the hive was appearing to be much calmer. I don't know for a fact but, I am of the assumption that the hive was taken over by Africanized bees. I don't have an answer, but I am of the thought that it could be possible that Africanized bees can take over a hive. As of now the hive a calm, and appears to be back to normal. Any further thoughts would be appreciated.

02-10-2011, 04:16 PM
Cape bees will take over a hive in the manner you describe, but you don't have them in your country.

When hives are close together sometimes a mating queen will drift into the wrong hive and be accepted. But from a long distance highly unlikely.

What's more likely to have happened is the queen was superseded and the supersedure queen mated badly. The old queen can be alive in the hive at the same time as the new queen is laying eggs, but will eventually disappear from the hive.

I had a case recently where I sold a guy a hive, after inspecting several hives for sale he chose a very gentle one. Over the next several months he emailed me a few times saying how well they were doing, and how his friends enjoyed him opening the hive to show them, nobody wearing a veil.

Then he emailed me saying the hive had "suddenly gone bad", and must have a new queen, he had been badly stung. I was sure, from the details he gave me that could not have happened but he wanted me to drop by & requeen it.

When I went there the bees were again calm, and, we found the origional marked queen. All bees have their bad days and seasons.

02-10-2011, 04:26 PM
Usurpation only occurs 20 percent of the time and it has always been in a weakened hive. The more common and likely occurance as stated by others, the queen was replaced with openly mated queen.
http://americasbeekeeper.com/Africanized%20Honeybees%20Biology%20and%20Behavior .htm

02-10-2011, 04:37 PM
There have been some resent articles about Usurpation in the abj. Dr. Wyatt Mangum of Virginia witnessed more than one in his apiaries last year with European bees.
Not just the weak hives either.

02-10-2011, 04:39 PM
"AHB swarms also practice "nest usurpation," meaning they invade EHB colonies and replace resident queens with the swarm's African queen. Nest usurpation causes loss of European matrilines as well as patrilines. "In Arizona, we've seen usurpation rates as high as 20 to 30 percent," says DeGrandi-Hoffman."

from http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/mar04/bees0304.htm

Ted Kretschmann
02-10-2011, 04:42 PM
The AHB we have has some of the same traits that the cape bee has. Some of Dr. Kerrs bees came from an area just north of the cape bees territory. Upsurption is only one problem. There is the problem of the intercast suicide worker. It is a souped up laying worker that parasitizes colonies and eventually with the help of other intercaste workers, kills the original queen. This ability to lay laying workers that lay unfertilized eggs that develop into other laying workers has been found in the AHB that we have. It is in their genetics and a holdover from eons of battling Cape Bee for territory. The Cape Bee uses it to wipe out the indigenous African Bee in Africa. And our AHB uses it here on our bees also. Kind of like the original computer virus. Maybe a partial cause of CCD, TK

02-10-2011, 04:48 PM
This ability to lay laying workers that lay unfertilized eggs that develop into other laying workers has been found in the AHB that we have. It is in their genetics and a holdover from eons of battling Cape Bee for territory. The Cape Bee uses it to wipe out the indigenous African Bee in Africa. And our AHB uses it here on our bees also.
Oh, that is bad, very bad.

All efforts should be made to get rid of these bees. As you say, cape bees anyway, they are like a computer virus.

02-10-2011, 07:11 PM
As stated earlier
American Bee Journal Febuary 2011
on page 159 in honey bee biology. Dr. Wyatt Mangum talks about usurpation.
Hope this helps

02-10-2011, 07:29 PM
Mr. Kretschmann; do you have reliable resources backing this claim?

02-10-2011, 07:31 PM
Africanized bees do take over hives.

In fact, the term "Killer Bees" got started because they were called "Assassin Bees" in Portugese (in Brazil), referring to the behavior of taking over and "assasinating" the queen in an established hive. Somebody mistranslated "assasin bee" to "killer bee" and the name stuck.

The reality is that, in areas where AHB are more suited to the environment than EHB, the AHB simply take over from a genetic standpoint -- they don't mix their genes with EHB to create hybrids.

As they go North (or South in S. America), AHB eventually reach a latitude where they don't do as well, and only then does hybridization happen, which then phases out. However, from Brazil to Mexico, the AHB completely took over.

In areas where they are more suited to the environment, they do this due to a variety of behaviors, including taking over hives, having drones that fly faster, having queens and drones that go on mating flights earlier in the day, swarming more and being able to make nests in smaller spots.

(This info. is from Dr. Dewey Caron's book Africanized Honey Bees in the Americas and talking to him myself when he came to Tulsa. He probably knows more about AHB than anybody.)

02-10-2011, 09:17 PM
According to USDA ARS hybridization occurs first
"Many experts expected that the farther from a tropical climate AHBs spread, the more they would interbreed with EHBs. But it appears that interbreeding is a transient condition in the United States, according to ARS entomologist Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman. She is research leader at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona, and ARS national coordinator for AHB research.

"Early on, we thought the mixing would reach a steady state of hybridization, because we knew the two groups of bees can easily interbreed and produce young," DeGrandi-Hoffman says. "But while substantial hybridization does occur when AHBs first move into areas with strong resident EHB populations, over time European traits tend to be lost." "

They are still considered a hybid with dominant African traits

"Finally, some African traits are genetically dominant, such as queen behavior, defensiveness, and some aspects of foraging behavior. This doesn't mean that EHB genes disappear, but rather that hybrid bees express more pure African traits. The persistence of some EHB genes is why the invading bees are still considered Africanized rather than African, regardless of trait expression, she points out."

The early opinions on the transition as AHB spread North has been overcome by reality.
"Some experts predicted the bees would spread throughout the country; others thought they'd reach only as far north as the latitude of Houston. Most expected there would be a southern zone where AHBs would predominate, a northern zone where EHBs would maintain a climatic advantage, and a large transitional zone between the two. And everyone expected AHBs to spread across the southernmost tier of states. But, as of January 2004, AHBs have been found only in southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands."

The most interesting and least known is the correlation between rainfall, temperature and the spread or not of AHB.
"Why AHBs haven't progressed eastward into Louisiana—though they were expected there years ago—is a mystery. So ARS entomologist José D. Villa began looking at factors that might correlate with where AHBs have spread. It isn't just minimum winter temperature that limits AHB spread, as many believed, says Villa, who is in the ARS Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Research Unit in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"What immediately jumped out at me was the correlation with rainfall," he says. "Rainfall over 55 inches, distributed evenly throughout the year, is almost a complete barrier to AHB spread."

Total annual rainfall alone isn't a barrier; AHBs have been found in areas of the Tropics with higher rainfall. But in areas with high rainfall distributed throughout the year, Villa's pattern of AHB spread fits perfectly.

Villa is quick to point out that this is simply a mathematical correlation and not proof of cause and effect. But, he says, "you do find that 55-inches-of-rainfall point right at the edge of where AHBs stopped moving east about 10 years ago." He's planning experiments that may uncover the behavioral or physiological mechanism that explains why.

How much farther AHBs may spread is still unknown. But if you apply the 55-inches-of-rainfall limit, there are still niches that the bees may fill, mainly in southern California. Southern Florida would be hospitable to the bees given its temperature and rainfall, but regulatory vigilance could keep them out, since the area isn't contiguous with the other areas of AHB spread. Alabama, northern Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi are unlikely to be troubled by AHBs if the 55-inches-of-rainfall barrier holds."
I use these quotes with USDA ARS permission as I am teaching the AHB classes at Florida Bee College and the authors provided it.

02-10-2011, 09:33 PM
Another weird fact is that their defensive behavior is affected by temperature (or maybe it's altitude). In S. America, the very same hives of bees are fairly easy to deal with in the mountains where it is cool but turn aggressive when moved to a lower/hotter altitude.

02-10-2011, 09:52 PM
Altitude calms them. I go to the mountains in Honduras every year and some other Central American countries. It is much easier to work the bees over a couple thousand feet. The authors of the USDA ARS studies found the 55 inch rainfall, highly influenced by minimum temerature also. If it goes to zero, that is also your chance of finding AHB there.

02-10-2011, 10:01 PM
Thanks, very interesting.

I read something where it was hypothesised that the reason high rainfall could be a barrier, is that where they come from in Africa, rain tells them it's time to swarm. But in other climates, swarming when it rains can send them to their doom and thus controls the population.

AmericasBeekeeper, what is your opinion on them taking over existing hives by swarming into them? Is that very common?

02-10-2011, 10:10 PM
Tropical rain, 55 plus inches does several things. Varroa and small hive beetles thrive. Vegetation is available year round and Apis adonsoni, "European", and others compete for forage in the tropical regions. The most observed behavior in Africa related to the rapid blooming after infrequent rains that scutellata exploited, then swarming to other arid regions in search of forage. European bees gather stores to survive and procreate. Scutellata swarm and abscond to procreate and survive.

02-10-2011, 10:16 PM
According to USDA ARS "usurpation rates as high as 20 to 30 percent," says DeGrandi-Hoffman."
The predominant factor was supercedure with queens mated with AHB. I wish queen breeders and rearers could use this to our favor.
"queens preferentially use the African semen first to produce the next generation of workers and drones, sometimes at a ratio as high as 90 to 10," in queens artificially inseminated 50/50.

Ted Kretschmann
02-10-2011, 10:17 PM
Africanized Stock has been imported into the USA before during the twentieth century. Look in the old bee journals and you will see the stock offered for sale. The stock that Taber developed for the fight against the bee paralysis problem had Africanized bee genetics in them. This stock was released to the bee breeders across the South back in the late 60's and early 70's.Well, the point I am making that everytime AHB encounters our EHB, the EHB collapse. We called it 'disapearing disease' back in the early 70's. There appears to be a corrolation between the two. WE call it CCD today. It seems that the AHB maybe carrying viruses and yeast just like it's sybiote the hive beetle does also. Maybe the collapse is cause by intercaste parasitism. I do know that the first CCD that I heard about was from the south Florida area, an area known to be colonized by AHB. I do know that the AHB we have does have the ability to produce intercaste. Dr. Hoffman is studying intercaste workers and why they exist. You people on Bee Source are alot smarter than I, so discuss this and research it. I have done so and am pretty convinced that this is the source of honeybee collapses through the history of beekeeping in the USA. TK

02-11-2011, 12:38 AM
[QUOTE=Ted Kretschmann;617547]The AHB we have has some of the same traits that the cape bee has. Some of Dr. Kerrs bees came from an area just north of the cape bees territory. Upsurption is only one problem. There is the problem of the intercast suicide workers.
I have seen this in my experimentation with AHB. The intercast almost looks like a queen and is reconizable with experience. It is virtually impossible to requeen. $250.00 worth of queens used trying.
Getting to the original post. I my experimentation this is what I observed several times. A small AHB swarm (1/2 cup of bees) with queen will attach to a strong hive. ( Either at a loose lid or on the landing board at one corner) They will not attempt to enter initially. At the landing board they will mostly be on the side of the box. They will start mingleing with the gaurds at the front door or communicate with bees through a crack under the lid, In both cases the will be on the outside for 3 to 5 days. Soon ,(7 days) you will find a little cluster has moved into the box. They will clear an area of comb for the AHB queen to lay in, all the time protecting her. About the time her eggs grow into larve stage, the AHB will seek out your EHB queen and kill her. ( well, I never saw them kill her, but she does disappear). I observed this by manipulating the invaded colonies every day to watch there progress. I saw this repeated on 6 diffrent hives. Watch out for unnatural little clusters of bees hanging on your hives.

02-11-2011, 12:53 AM
As for altitude and not stinging, I am at 2400ft and yesterday at 69 deg F, they were in a stinging mood. I have three hives of AHB cross that are totally disease resistant. I have even tried to introduce AFB. They have low level varroa but still thrive. Some days they are easily worked. I compare them to the old German black bees for temprament.

02-11-2011, 01:29 AM
Wow that's interesting Jjgbee. Never heard of that before, always learning something new.

Ted Kretschmann
02-11-2011, 07:06 AM
Old Timer, this does answer does not pertain to AHB upsurption or intercaste suicide worker. I have worked New Zealand bees before. So I was wondering how has the industry held up down under. Is it surviving by the skin of it's teeth due to the varroa infestation??? New Zealand bees are the gentlest bees in the world that I have ever worked with. I have worked bees in various parts of the world and am still impressed with the none defensiveness of NZ bees. Maybe one day stock can be imported to the USA from NZ. I know Canada has gotten stock in the past.The New Zealand beekeepers are some of the best trained beekeepers in the world with a very good extension support service that works with them. So I would not think a bad product would be exported. Might be a good bee to cross and "gentle" the fire nature of AHB TK

02-11-2011, 01:41 PM
Well thanks Ted!:)

Because years ago we had a lot of AMM here which would constantly interbreed with anything else, it was nessecary to always be selecting away from them and breeding for gentleness, and this became a bit of an obsession for many beekeepers. But it is possible to also have a good bee in other respects. It certainly makes the day more pleasant if the bees are gentle.

The beekeeping industry is doing fine here. We do not have CCD or many other problems other countries do.

We have varroa here but it's not a problem as long as hives are managed properly. Many places around the world varroa have built resistance to chemical treatments such as apistan and similar, but this has not happened here yet so treatment is fairly simple. However the day will come when resistance occurs so people are working on varroa tolerant lines of bee plus various IPM schedules.

Yes NZ bees can and are sent to the US, although I recently tried to send a few of my own and discovered the paperwork involved has now become a nightmare I had to give up on it. But there are some larger NZ beekeepers sending both queens and packages to the US.

02-11-2011, 01:56 PM
I think a couple points have been lost or missed in this discussion.

First, the hive in the original post likely was not requeened with an open mated queen. Fourteen days from having a marked queen with calm tempered brood to having a hive-produced, mated queen and mature offspring of that queen is simply too little time. Even assuming that a new queen returned to the hive the same day that you found the marked queen, 14 days would not be long enough for her offspring to mature (become adults and affect the temperment of the hive).

Secondly, the unique ability of the Cape honey bees that allows them to usurp hives is known as "thelytoky." This is a genetic condition that allows unfertilized eggs to develop into females, as opposed to the unfertilized eggs of other honey bees developing into males because of the haplo-diploid nature of hymenopterans. I have not read of any examples of thelytoky in any other subspecies of honey bees. I would be surprised if it exists in other subspecies.

Ted Kretschmann
02-11-2011, 03:14 PM
Old timer, do you have an address where I can get some NZ stock??? I am always looking for new genetics. Kiek, theleotoky has been observed in about 5 % of AHB stock in the America's. While that may seem like a low percentage, it is still enough of a percentage to cause problems in some cases. TK

02-11-2011, 03:26 PM
Hi Ted, check this http://www.aratakihoneyrotorua.co.nz/packagebees.htm
And DO click on the VIEW VIDEO link on the page, you will enjoy.

Just a couple of things though, I'm not sure if they do small orders, it might pay to contact them (they are quite friendly) and find out if they are sending any orders to any US re-sellers, and then buy the queens from the re-seller.

The other thing, NZ bees up to a few years ago were mainly italian, or a blend sometimes known as "NZ Italian". But more recently Carniolans have been imported to our country and I know Arataki are selling a lot of those, you would need to specify you want Italian.

02-11-2011, 03:37 PM
I stand corrected. I did some additional reading on thelytoky. Turns out that thelytoky occurs at low rates in all subspecies of honey bees except Apis mellifera capensis, the Cape honey bee, in which it occurs at much higher rates.

The same process occurs apparently at about the same rates in A. m. carnica and A. m. liguistica as it does in A. m. scutellata. I doubt thelytoky is the explanation for usurpation of existing colonies by scutellata hybrids. Otherwise, the same explanation would mean that about the same percentage of pure non-scutellata bees would usurp existing colonies.

Ted Kretschmann
02-11-2011, 03:42 PM
Old timer, I do believe that I am capable of buying a large enough order of queens to satisfy their requirements. I own right at 2000 colonies of bees. But I still will check to see who the resellers are. I bought 900 aussie queens three years back. I liked them, but somebody in this country had a quark. You know the rest of the story. So I really would like the NZ genetics added to my stock lines. That what a major problem in the USA is, a bottle necked genetic base. TK

Ted Kretschmann
02-11-2011, 03:52 PM
Kieck, AHB has many tricks up it's sleeve. Thelytoky is just one of many weapons in its arsenal. Dr. Kerr did not set out to raise a bee that has caused so many sleepless night. What happened was a tragedy of errors. If the first shipment of select stock had not been killed at customs......If the excluders had not been removed by a visiting beekeeper.......And if the bees did not swarm away into the woods, we would be singing praises about the bee instead of curses. It will be up to us to take the best of what AHB has to offer and breed a bee that we all can be happy with. Brazil has done it. We can too. TK

02-11-2011, 03:57 PM
somebody in this country had a quark. TKHa Ha! :D

Oh well, Aussies loss is our gain!:)

I did think it was a bit tough though. That's another weird thing, although a couple of hundred cerana colonies have been discovered in Australia, no varroa has ever been found there.

Ted Kretschmann
02-11-2011, 04:11 PM
I submitted the form to Aritaka LTD and we will see what they say the requirements are for shipment of queens into the USA. Thanks Old Timer. TK

Adam Foster Collins
02-11-2011, 07:02 PM
Gad. Africanized bees...

One of the few great things about living so far North is the distance between us and the spread of those bees...

...so far