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  1. #21
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Cleveland, Texas

    Default Probability of AHB depends on geographic area

    A couple of recent studies have indicated that in some areas AHB do not seem to have as big of an advantage over the EHB. I quote from Feral honey bees in pine forest landscapes of East Texas (Coulson, etal 2005):

    "The honey bee mitotype diversity we observed in
    pineywoods ecoregion mirrors that reported by Pinto
    et al. (2004) in the adjacent coastal prairie ecoregion
    of TX. However, the environmental conditions for
    these two ecoregions are quite different. The coastal
    prairie provides ideal habitat for honey bees: cavity
    sites are plentiful in live oak mottes and in the
    deciduous trees that border stream corridors, high
    diversity of flowering plant species provides ample
    nectar and pollen, and water sources are reliable and
    widespread (Baum, 2003; Baum et al., 2004). In a
    representative landscape of the coastal prairie ecoregion,
    Baum (2003) reported a density of 12.5 colonies/
    km2, the highest ever observed for feral honey
    bees. By contrast the pineywoods ecoregion is
    depauparate of essential resources and in this
    environment the adaptive attributes of A. m. scutellata,
    which favor colonization of new habitats, could lead to
    the displacement of European mitotypes. However, we
    found that in this conifer-dominated forest environment,
    sparse in honey bee food and habitat resources,
    all the mitotype diversity that could be present, based
    on previous introductions, was represented.
    The conclusions that follow from this part of the
    investigation of feral honey bee races are: (i) honey
    bees are a ubiquitous component of the pine forest
    landscape in east Texas, (ii) mitotype diversity persists
    in the presence of immigration of A. m. scutellata, and
    (iii) A. m. scutellata is an added element of the
    mitotype diversity in the landscape.
    " (bold added for emphasis)

    They claim their study mirrors what was found previously in a study done of the Texas coastal prairie by Pinto etal. The particulars of the studies seem to support that AHB represent about 40% of the feral population and the combination of Eastern European and Western European honey bees are competing well with them in these areas. As such AHB's seem to be adding to the mitotype diversity of these areas instead of replacing it as they have done in other areas further west.

    I think it would be prudent for anyone who keeps bees in AHB territory to seek out this type of information. I would especially want to know it before making any blanket statements about a swarm such as "probably AHB". Knowing this information helps make a more informed "guess" about their possible genetics. Particularly in my area if I were basing it on the fact that the swarm was low to the ground. I have hived several swarms this year from just such "low to the ground" circumstances and in both cases when I later inspected the hives, the queens were large and yellow and obviously of mostly Italian genetics, but both had a large chip in a wing that prevented them from flying very high. Neither has shown any AHB characteristics what so ever. In my experience, for the most part, the "low to the ground" thing is not an accurate swarm assessment characteristic. I look mostly at swarm size and timing. For established colonies, I pay close attention to defensiveness and cavity characteristics for a clue (here low or in the ground can be very telling). In the end the only real way to know is to send some bees in for analysis. The few that I have sent in have tested EHB. So far 100% of my attempts at re-queening the hotter colonies I have come across with domestic stock have been successful, so at this point I am dubious as to the degree of africanization in my immediate area since I have not experienced the extreme difficulties that have been documented in attempting to re-queen a highly africanized colony. I have had much more difficulty re-queening Russians (even with Russian queens) than any of my ferals (this includes ferals from counties that have been considered africanized since the early 90's). Of course it could also mean that I have been lucky and not yet come across an AHB swarm or colony in the numerous swarm retrievals and colony removals I have done over the last two years, but if the 40% AHB feral population number from the study is to be believed, that does not seem too likely.

    I can't stress it enough though that my experience may not be applicable to folks in other areas. Hopefully there are studies that have been done or are now being done that can provide this type of information to those of you who reside in those areas now actively experiencing the "AHB migration phenomenon".
    "The UNKNOWN, huh? That would be SNORBERT ZANGOX over in Waycross."

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Buda, Texas


    Hi Ron, Joe, and all,

    In the past several years I have removed probably 15 swarms and 35 or 40 established colonies from the Austin and surrounding areas (where this news story took place). Of those, only two showed excessively defensive characteristics (which did turn out to be Africanized); Several of the colonies I removed were living in below ground structures and each of them were as gentle as any stock I have.
    In addition, I have fielded at least 150 additional calls for bee removals involving colonies that were established but had not been giving anyone any problems. None of the rescued cut-outs that I have done have subsequently turned mean, even though most have since raised queens on their own. Based on my experience, then, it seems that most of the swarms or colonies in this immediate area are NOT Africanized at this time.

    Much of the public already has a lot of misconceptions and fears regarding bees and many local governing bodies have rules or laws restricting beekeeping. I have no wish to see beekeeping further restricted as a reaction to a unsubstantiated or unfounded statements made by someone who is regarded as a expert.

    Naturally, I warn all of my customers about all the attendant dangers of bee colonies and cut-outs, but that is far different from going in front of a camera and announcing that you are removing a swarm that is probably Africanized and will now take it back to live and grow in a local beeyard.

    Note: Excellent post, Gene. You were posting yours right as I was doing mine.
    And Bullseye, you are right; the fact that the commentator didn't think the bees were too bad was nice to see.
    Last edited by Jeffrey Todd; 06-02-2008 at 04:42 PM.
    "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. " John 10:11

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Cleveland, Texas


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeffrey Todd View Post
    .... I have fielded at least 150 additional calls for bee removals involving colonies that were established but had not been giving anyone any problems.....
    This has been by and large my experience as well. I did receive one call from some folks wanting to "give" me some bees that had taken up residence in an old steel drum on their land. When they told me that they could not even get 50 - 100 feet from them without being attacked, I declined their "gift" and told them to call an exterminator. After thinking about that, I think that when we quote our removal statistics, maybe we should not weigh them too heavily as being counter to the evidence presented in the studies. It could just be that most people are not stupid and would pretty much expect that if the colony was "really aggressive and giving them a lot of problems" that a beekeeper would likely not be interested in them and they call an exterminator instead. We would need to know the statistics related to this type of scenario in order to evaluate the whole picture.

    It would seem then that swarms would be a better guide, however, that too could be skewed too heavily toward AHB's since they swarm at a much more frequent rate than EHB's (an area with 1 AHB colony that throws 7 swarms per year and 7 EHB colonies that each throw 1 swarm per year would erroneously indicate 50% AHB population based on swarm statistics). AHB swarm counts would need to be "adjusted" to take that into account.
    "The UNKNOWN, huh? That would be SNORBERT ZANGOX over in Waycross."

  4. #24
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Tulsa, OK


    I started another AHB thread that shows my own ignorance but I won't let that stop me.

    It seems to me that killing every swarm that might be AHB (which really woud include every swarm in AHB-land) is over the top. Also, if AHB are more fit for a particular habitat than EHB, then the AHB will win out in a short time anyway. Think of how much effort goes into killing roaches, but there's still plenty of them because they can thrive in the normal environment. There will be nowhere near that amount of effort trying to kill AHB. If AHB are fit for a locale, they'll spread. If they are clearly more fit than EHB, they will take over. I know we'd like to think that beekeepers are in control of the genetics of feral bees, but they just aren't.

    However, it seems to me that beekeepers have a duty to kill hives that are so overly aggressive as to pose a hazard. And that's true whether you know the genetics of the hive are AHB, EHB or somewhere in between. Seems to me that it is also in everybody's best interest to help promote any hives (even those who show AHB behaviors) that are reasonably well-behaved. If an area is going to go over to being purely AHB it will happen matter what we beekeepers do. At least beekeepers could help along those AHB or AHB hybrids that are safe to be around.

    I don't think the beek on the tape looks like a beehaver or that anything she said was out of line.


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