And No we didn't win in Nam, but I mean were we even in a War there, never delcared. All I will say about this is Linebacker 2, December of 1972.
And No we didn't win in Nam, but I mean were we even in a War there, never delcared. All I will say about this is Linebacker 2, December of 1972.
For the last 18 years I have been living in Honduras and working with Africanized bees. They can be managed and they can make honey but it is a much different management style that needs to be used. I work with them and actually enjoy it (most of the time). I am also now in my third year of working seasonally for some commercial beekeepers in Wisconsin (2000+ hives). This has given me a pretty good idea of how beekeeping is generally done on a larger scale in the States and whatís involved with it. I also have a dozen of my own hives in Wisconsin with my brotheródoing this more as a hobbyist than commercially (itís something to mess around with on the weekends).
SoÖÖhere are some of my thoughts on how beekeeping in the States would change if there were just hives like the Africanized ones I deal with in Honduras.
Beginning with the initial question on this thread, Africanized bees can be bad. It seems like everybody in Honduras has a story about where a horse or chickens were stung to death or somebody got stung up pretty bad. Newspaper stories about stinging incidents are still common even though people have been dealing with Africanized bees in Honduras since about 1985. But there is always a reason that somebody or something gets attacked. Itís the horse that rubs up against the hive or the children who are playing too close to the feral colony. You leave them alone and they will generally leave you alone.
Someone mentioned Africanized bees coming at you from 200 yards away. I only see this happening if they are already really riled up for some reason (beekeeper is in there working them or something like ants are messing with them). And then it usually would only be a few buzzing around your head at that distant. I usually walk right into my apiaries and put on my suit there, maybe 20 yards away from the hives. I will even walk around the hives checking entrance activity without putting up my veil (but itís tied on and ready to raise over my head if needed, as well as having the smoker on hand and lit). But once I start to really mess with them I make sure Iím completely suited up and pouring the smoke on them.
Africanized bees can be managed. They can make a decent amount of honey. Disease problems are not real common--but swarming is. Sometimes they can be pretty docile while at other times they get down right ornery.
Iím not real sure how ďAfricanizedĒ the bees will become in the southern part of the States. Considering the size of the beekeeping industry here I think having all those hives of European bees will help to buffer many feral hives from becoming truly ďAfricanizedĒ. I think many of those feral hives would be more of a ďhybrid crossĒ and thus a bit calmer. Managed hives can be easily requeened if necessary. That type of beekeeping infrastructure was not present in Honduras (and still isnít present) and I believe helped all colonies there to become ďAfricanizedĒ much faster. Something resembling a European honeybee no longer exists there. Everything resembles more of an ďAfricanĒ bee.
Full-blown africanized honeybees (such as I deal with in Honduras) I believe would be a problem for the commercial beekeepers in the U.S. if they wish to continue running their apiaries as they do now. Hobbiests and sideliners, however, may have less of a problem considering how they work with their hives and go about this activity.
We are now in the middle of pulling honey in Wisconsin. The name of the game for the commercial beekeeper here is to get into the yard, pull off the full supers, load them on the truck and get to the next yard as fast as you can (time is money). It would be a really ugly situation if all those hives we are banging around to get the honey off would be Africanized.
I canít do that when working my Africanized hives in Honduras. I like (and need) to go nice and slow in order to try and keep them somewhat calmómuch as a hobbiest would do in the States. If I donít use some care I will have a bunch of angry bees stinging my gloves and bouncing off my veil. I donít usually worry about myself when they get riled up but you never know who or what might wander by to check out whatís going on. Itís that odd person or horse or cow that will be in trouble.
My small hives are pretty calm. Nucs and new swarms arenít too much of a problem to work with. Just an extra shirt, gloves and a veil are usually sufficient to work with them. But to make honey you want big hives; the same for pollination. Big Africanized hives get defensive and ornery. That means you need a full suit with an extra long sleeved shirt underneath it to avoid all those half stings (not fun in hot weather). Pants legs should be taped down. I use insulated leather winter gloves for working my hives in Honduras (my wife sews the sleeve on them). I would get too many half-stings through the leather bee gloves I use here in Wisconsin. I get enough of them now just working with European bees (especially on a drizzly day like we had today).
Pulling honey from Africanized hives during a flow isnít too bad (as long as you donít bang around on the hive too much). During the dearth my bees can be very robby and ornery. I can imagine that pulling the last of the supers off in the fall from Africanized hives in Wisconsin wouldnít be much fun. It would be even worse on a dreary or drizzly or cool day. Commercial operators canít always wait for the perfect sunny warm day to work the hives.
Iím not sure that four-way pallets would work that well either. If one of the hives starts to get riled up Iím pretty sure the other three are going to join in also. Keeping Africanized hives further apart (as in on individual bottom boards) with smaller numbers in the yard is better. Forty-eight hives on four-way pallets close to each other isnít the ideal situation for Africanized bees.
For the migratory beekeepers, you donít really want leaky boxes (keep those bees inside). You want to make sure you have decent equipment in good shape. You would probably want to close up all the entrances before you start to move them. I wouldnít load a semi with my Africanized hives while the entrances are open. That would probably also mean using a ventilated top with themósomething many commercial beeks donít bother with in the States. (This means extra equipment, extra investment).
As far as hobbyists, you would not want to have my bees within city limits or too close to the house. Urban beekeeping would probably have to disappear. It would be very difficult, and dangerous, to ďmanageĒ one of my hives in town. They will probably stay fairly calm along as you donít really mess with them. But you may never know what will cause it to go bonkers (neighborís dog or a childís ball or a lawn mower). It is a potential disaster waiting to happen. Again, you usually want a nice, big, strong hive which means they get much more defensive.
Beekeeping is a lucrative endeavor in Honduras. When looking at the overall economic situation there, you can make decent money (within the Honduran economy) off of relatively few hives. Honey is actually a luxury item. It fetches a very good price. And considering what I have to put up with to produce that honey (ornery Africanized bees), I donít feel bad about having to charge a high price for itóeven though some people cannot afford it.
It makes me wonder what U.S. beekeepers would want and need to charge in the States for having to deal with the same situation to produce honey. I think costs would definitely go up for the U.S. beekeeper and thus for the consumer. For example, Africanized bees are more labor intensive in my opinion. Consider that in Honduras I usually have one person basically just manning the smoker, always ready when I say I need another puff of smoke on the bees. And, as I indicated, it is much slower to do what needs to be done with the bees. I see the commercial guy getting much less done in a day than what he does now. So that would probably mean they would have to manage less hives or hire extra helpóless earnings or more expenses.
Just some thoughts.
Thanks, Tomas, for your very balanced and honest assessment of AHB beekeeping.
Thanks for the very thoughtful post. In my case the previous owner of the Brazil farm I am at tried hobby beekeeping but allowed his horse to get too close to the hives rubbing against them. The bees killed his horse and he abandoned the hobby and all his equip as this was very traumatic for him. My WI bee guru tells me that it is not particularly hard for any disturbed bee colony to kill a horse as they start to hyperventilate and having large mouth and nostrils inhale many bees and then it's over for them. Anyway beekeeping in AHB countries is a much more serious affair as far as the time and resource dedication typical of commercial guys but requires the care and
gentler handling more typical of the hobby keeper.
You might also read Thomas' post #62, also from personal experience, and is more in tuned to what the generally accepted experience with these bees than yours. I won't give you my experience as I am sure that since ARS research group must be liars, then surely you would accept my personal experiences either.
I will tell you this, based upon my personal experiences, I will not tolerate anything that resembles AHB. Also, regardless of what the law states, I have to much love for my fellow man to subject them to the risks of AHB.
Well I am telling you for a fact that AHBs can easily kill your horses as you will also read from other posts in this thread and you would be wise to keep them away from any colony that is showing agression. Troll alert!!!
if you will notice by name it it called an african HYBRID.
I have read and seen geographical maps of Africa that stated the locations of seven, 7, honeybee species.
Back in the late 60's and early 70's beekeepers coine a new term called disappearing. They would get packages, dump them out, fill the inside feeders and check them later to find out that the bees were gone!
Now, I am talking about 2nd and 3rd generation beekeepers. The location of the bees were in Canada.
Here is what the researchers found out out about the problem:
The African stock is phototropic and will fly even when there is snow on the ground.
European bees are thermotropic and will fly when the temperature is about 55 degrees F.
Try and locate some ABJ publications of that era and you will find a lot of information.
We got reports of seasoned beekeepers being driven back into their truck for safety and later they counted hundes of stingers in the black gasket that seals in the windshield.
That's all for now,
Tomas--Thank you for such an informative post. As a Wisconsinite with family from South America (I know Honduras is central), it is especially interesting for me to hear about beekeeping in both regions.
I helped a friend move his hives, and they had Africanized bees in them. Not too bad, until we went to opening the entrances. They literally covered me up. I must have had 10,000 bees on me. Then the chased me for about 200 yards until my buddy pulled up beside me in his truck and I jumped in the back, and he took off, with me brushing them off. When he stopped, I got inside the truck with the A/C. The ones that were left, got off me and went straight to the windows. I was lucky that I only had about 30 hits through the cloths. There were more that didn't really get in me, just itched a little.
K. Delaplane from Univ of GA has an excellent artictle covering AHBs with a
a good photo of an AHB yard.
From the article ... "Beekeepers may need to re-think the practice of combining several hives on a pallet because the vibration from working one hive disturbs them all. For this reason, beekeepers in Latin America have switched to single hive stands."
This discussion has given me a new appreciation for the challenges some face in having to work this trait. With all the commercial traffic from the South, IYO, is a semblence of these traits inevitable in the local breeder stock? As Tomas mentioned, it may be too much of a liability for small, residential hobbyists to continue.
Don't read too much hysteria into this, but one of the reasons I like living here is that the cold winters keep alot of the warm climate "nasties" at bay. I'd sure miss my gentle Carmies.
As far as the southern US this can easily get very political in a big hurry. Someone like Delaplane at the Univ of GA is telling you the truth but he is not telling you all the truth like many very smart people. When I see that USDA map what I have are big questions about lack of accurate reporting and bias to not report all the facts given the size of the business in the south. But then Lake Geneva WI where I am now is pretty far north of the Mason-Dixon.
Regardless what I think everybody can agree on is that basic bee research is shockingly underfunded in the US given its importance. A prime example is the lack of any kind of rapid field id test kit for AHBs. I would think there is enough DNA tech in the US to make a kit like this since one of the big problems is that even bee experts have a hard time making a visual id.
I will just echo the early posts on this thread and the post from Tomas. AHB really are that bad. I have kept bees here in Los Angeles for about 5 years starting with a wild swarm. My hives were always hot, but manageable. This year all my hives turned into full AHB behavior. As they built up in the spring they got progressively more aggressive. They stung the neighbors, stung the postman, stung my wife, and of course stung me. When I would be working outside, the bees would tap you once. Second "tap" was a sting around your eyes - and they were really fast! I had to move my hives out to a remote location and requeen them. I had to destroy some too. When I managed those AHB hives they would behave as Tomas described. You had to be slow and deliberate, and even with a lot of smoke they would be crazy. Even after I went back into the house they would continue to bang on the kitchen window for an hour trying to attack me through the glass. Bottom line is that urban beekeepers cannot keep full AHB colonies. It is just too much hassle and too dangerous for the neighbors. Most all the swarms showing up this year are fully aggressive AHB as well.
You don't need a DNA test to know if you have AHB. If you aren't sure, then they are not AHB. Maybe some suspect hives may contain bees from an EHB mother and AHB drones. But, if you have full AHB bees you would know it. No doubt!
My sense is that agribusiness will continue to use AHB, but sideline and hobby beekeepers will need to get mated queens from suppliers that do not have the aggressive AHB attributes. Queen producers in the south will need to go to artificially inseminated queens like Glenn Apiaries does.
Agree in general. But with a fast test you could at least have some logical guide so that destroying swams does not get to be the norm. Everyone just expects that a feral swarm is exhibiting killer bee behavior.. KILL THEM! Even beeks on this group who should know better show that attitude. Also, they are not always so hyper agressive. Temp, altitude, humidity, food situation, etc all enter into it.
Ran across some interesting information from this site here:
This is an interesting quote from this study which I would like to delve into here:
"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."
My understanding of this 'transient' condition of inbreeding with ehb is that eventually ahb will eventually displace the ehb in areas where the ahb are established if proper management techniques are not implemented. Apparently there is a false belief that ehb will somehow reduce the aggressiveness of ahb, but this appears to not be the case, as this will only happen on a transient basis. However, there is a saving grace to this, that being that since the ahb do not cluster, the further north they go, the harder time they will have in establishing feral populations. Let's discuss this issue a little if we could.
I admit that I'm not sure I buy it. I'm very skeptical of any AHB sensationalism. I'm not in denial. I live in a county that our government says has been taken over by AHB yet I still keep bees and I'm not experiencing anything like people are describing as AHB. I may be wrong but I think that AHB can and will be managed. If I am wrong I will buy thicker bee suits, bigger smokers and continue to keep bees. As my handle suggests, I live in a very rural area of a very rural county. My biggest fear (bigger than AHB!) is that the government will declare that all honeybees in our "confirmed" AHB counties will have to be destroyed. That would be a shame but I can imagine, especially, our current regime trying to push something like that on us.