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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    Rumford, Maine, USA
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    Question Africanized Bees - Are they really that bad?

    Has anyone had any actual experience with them?
    I know that the media will basically prey on people's fears at times so I'm sure that Africanized Bees are overexaggerated in some ways.

    I've always had an intense phobia basically regarding these bees

    I adore bees and have always been fascinated by them. They have an extremely important role in our environment which is why I really wish to learn more about Africanized Bees and to understand them more which will hopefully lessen my fear of them.
    Don't Worry, Bee Happy!

  2. #2
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    May 2008
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    Campobello, SC, USA
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    Default

    I've never delt with them, but I'm glad you ask. I've always wondered the same thing. I'm sure they are more agressive, but I've seen them get pretty mean here, and we don't have AHB in SC. How bad are they really?

  3. #3
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    Apr 2008
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    Auburn, GA USA
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    117

    Default AHB Aggression

    I don't have a lot of experience, but did have some for 2 seasons. Like our more gentle bees their aggression is based on the amount of messing you do. Normally defenders will meet you about 20-30 ft before you get to the hive, if you turn around all is well. The closer you get the more challengers you get, this includes head-banging. Now to check or change supers, this is about all you get. If you want to check brood, or inspect in the brood chamber, you should be ready...all H*** is about to break loose.

    After my first time, I learned to wear a full suit with thermals under it. They would follow me to the house 100 yards away, and swarm the windows trying to get in. After about an hour they would give up and go home. It wasn't safe to go out unprotected for many hours. They forget SLOWLY.

    If you leave them be and give them their space all is well. They swarm around 4-6 times a year and produce about 2/3 the honey of the italians. No Mite or SHB problem though.

    I had much better luck with them than I have had with the civil bees I have now.

    Wanna know more PM me.

    BTW: They were sold to me as italians and as a newbee I didn't know!!!
    Last edited by rw3212; 04-05-2009 at 07:23 PM. Reason: afterthought
    ! ! ! 4 years and STILL a bee-ginner ! ! !

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Land O Lakes, FL
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    269

    Default

    My experiences are similar to rw3212.

    I have had a hive come back positive and it was the one I suspected. They defend a much larger area around their hive and when you open it up, they are after you. They would chase me around my house. Other breed never do that. I can go within 4-5 feet with non african hives and work my veggies without any issue. With the Africanized, I had to wear a veil all the time and my wife refused to go into the garden.

    None of this is an issue now as all of my hives were requeened and since they have been gentle.

  5. #5
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    Apr 2008
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    Starkville,Ms,USA
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    516

    Default

    They swarm around 4-6 times a year and produce about 2/3 the honey of the italians. BTW: They were sold to me as italians and as a newbee I didn't know!!!
    How many AHB do you think got loose into the wild from the swarming?

    I know Georgia is not supposed to be an area with AHB.

  6. #6
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    Feb 2008
    Location
    Auger Hole, MN
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    434

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    I have had seasonal Brazilian beekeepers who work for me and in Brazil its all Africanized. I have visited Brazil also and spoke to many beekeepers there.

    According to them you can't place hives next to each other like we do here in the USA. You don't drive your truck next to the hives. You use mega smoke and care when manipulating. But the amount of manipulation is minimal. They don't buy bees or raise queens as these bees are tough as hell. You put empty equipment out and the bees fill it with swarms.

    When they attack its the stuff from horror movies. Bees in every orifice of
    your body whether the orifice is covered with clothing our not. Run like hell or get in a building or vehicle our you dead if attacked.

    This is the future of far southern USA someday. Slowly as beekeepers leave the profession and the AHB take over it becomes harder and harder to keep an European hive intact genetically. People scoff when I say this but why do you think Mexico and central America and places like Brazil are 100% Africanized? Right now some single digit percent of our industry is using AHB and selling them. This percentage will grow in the near future. At some point it will be almost impossible to get packages and queens from southern areas that are totally free of Africanized genetics.

    The future of northern beekeeping is here now and its the beeks who are raising their own queens and nucs! Mark my words some day they will be selling their bees south in a reversal of what it has been traditionally. As the genetic depository of European Honeybees will be in the northern 1/3 or half of the USA not in south.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    Thousand Oaks, CA USA
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    1,209

    Default

    I talked with one veteran beek on this forum who told me his Africanized hives would hit his veil so hard they would be squirting venom through the netting. A scary scenario...

  8. #8
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    Apr 2008
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    Auburn, GA USA
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    117

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr.Wax View Post
    How many AHB do you think got loose into the wild from the swarming?

    I know Georgia is not supposed to be an area with AHB.
    You are correct, that was in the heart of AHB country Hidalgo County Texas. The original AHB swarm found in the USA was 3 miles from where I lived at that time, The only non-AHB's there are in the managed hives. Let one supersede and it WILL be AHB positive.

    This was all a few years ago also. I don't know the situation there now, but can't imagine it has improved as,
    for-all-practical-purposes the ferel bees are at least hybreds.
    ! ! ! 4 years and STILL a bee-ginner ! ! !

  9. #9
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    Aug 2002
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    Auburn, AL USA
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    106

    Default Buckfast=hybridized african

    Buckfast originally had african blood. Which makes them africanized. Africanized bees have been here at least as long as the italians. Who really knows what kind of bees we keep?? Isn't it all just semantics?? Which begs the question. Do we really have separate races of bees?? And if so, can those races breed true?? That is, is there a mechanism within each race that provides some mating advantage to breed true??

  10. #10
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    Dec 2005
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    Cleveland, Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by rw3212 View Post
    You are correct, that was in the heart of AHB country Hidalgo County Texas. The original AHB swarm found in the USA was 3 miles from where I lived at that time, The only non-AHB's there are in the managed hives. Let one supersede and it WILL be AHB positive.

    This was all a few years ago also. I don't know the situation there now, but can't imagine it has improved as,
    for-all-practical-purposes the ferel bees are at least hybreds.
    I have done several removals of large feral hives in counties that have been considered Africanized for more than ten years. In all cases I ended up with very manageable EHB colonies. Admittedly, these removals were done from areas with a sizable commercial beekeeping presence, so it would seem anecdotally at least from my experience that not quite ALL the feral bees in these areas are Africanized.
    "The UNKNOWN, huh? That would be SNORBERT ZANGOX over in Waycross."

  11. #11
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    Dec 2006
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    St. Albans, Vermont
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheMaineBee View Post
    I'm sure that Africanized Bees are overexaggerated in some ways.
    Next time you can talk with your state bee inspector, ask him about the colony we re-queened in Kittery. It was a Buckfast package that came out of Texas. Absolutely ferocious. Tore up the neighborhood, and started a war among neighbors. Overexaggerated? I would say not!

  12. #12
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    Feb 2009
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    Brisbane, Australia
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    This is all pretty interesting to me and no doubt to other beeks on this side of the ocean.

    It is quite difficult given the docility of the modern bee to imagine just how difficult the AHB must be to deal with. It would certainly be no holiday keeping them in the suburbs and would probably rule many hobby beeks out of the industry.

    So is it at all possible to breed the agressive gene (whatever that may be) out of the hybridised version of the honey bee? What work has been done in trying to deal with this problem and to create a more docile hybrid or is it just a too difficult option with their propensity to swarming and becoming feral?

    Mick

  13. #13
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    Dec 2008
    Location
    Lauderdale County TN USA
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    404

    Default Modern research, and cross breeding

    Recent studies have shown that the current strains of the AHB in Brazil and Mexico have become bred with more docile strains of bee that it is becoming manageable with similar methods to the EHB. I have a brother-in-law who is a native Mexican, and personally raised Honeybees commercially before um ahem migrating to the US. His family still raise commercially and all of the hives are AHB, they are manageable, they do produce honey, and require less medication. He also said that on his last visit they were gentler than the ones they had 20 years ago. He remembers when the AHB arrived in his hometown, he said they all received a rude awakening being stung hundreds of time before they learned that they were no longer dealing with a normal hive. They had no way to afford re queening, so continued to raise what they had albeit with more clothing.

    I personally think in the long run everyone will be a little better of in most ways once the AHB has its foothold in the southern US and the local authorities realize resistance is futile. Lots of current pest and diseases will not be a problem as they are now.

    I honestly believe this is the lords way of dealing with the world. I'll explain more if someone would like. We may not understand why things are done, but understanding is not key trusting is. Everyone knows it is a hardier stronger strain and proliferates much more quickly. Now, think, the EHB colonies are dropping like flies, but the AHB is not, and it is spreading to areas that CCD is taking out EHB. Anyone think this is simple coincidence that both are happening at the same time?

    I do not look forward to the day when my hives become Arficanized, but I do look forward to the day that much less management is key to keeping a hive alive.

    My mother-in-law allowed a keeper to place 5 hives on her orange grove. The keeper abandoned them and they became africanized. They stayed that way for a couple of years before the extension office located the source of the swarms that were emanating from them. No one knew the difference until the extension agent notified them they had AHB on the grove. My in law explained they were placed there by so and so and they were not hers. The extension office located and took appropriate action with the keeper and the hives were euthanized. the hive were 100 feet from the road, and about 500 from the first row of trees. While they did notice they would peg the windows of a vehicle when driving by slowly, no one noticed them being AHB until they were told so by the extension agent. I will admit no one attempted to approach them before knowing due to fear of any bee AHB or not.

    I personally believe the ones who need adapting is us, and not them. While I do not anticipate the extra measures needed to keep them, I really think all the work and money the state and us governments are putting into fighting them is futile. Stop fighting, and learn to adapt and spend that money researching making them more adaptable and safer for the neighborhood keeper.

    -end rant

  14. #14
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    Dec 2008
    Location
    Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada
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    18

    Default AHB: Are they really that bad?

    Bear in mind that in places like Ghana, farmers use tripwired AHB hives to guard and drive off elephants that would raid their crops.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HwCh...layer_embedded

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environmen...8/elephant.bee

    The bees are not "bad" they are just defensive. They got that way for a reason.

    In my opinion keeping a strain of bees the sound of which drives off in fright the worlds largest mammal might not be a good call.

    Cheers

    Matt

  15. #15
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    Dec 2005
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    Cleveland, Texas
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    Default

    There are basically three kinds of AHB hives:

    1. Hives with a queen of European matriline mated primarily with AHB drones.

    2. Hives with a queen of African matriline mated primarily with EHB drones.

    3. Hives with a queen of African matriline mated primarily with AHB drones.

    Hives of the third type are uber defensive and very difficult to manage. The other two types are typically less defensive but can still be a challenge. Of the three, type one is the "lesser of three evils" in that they will only kick out EHB drones, they are also much easier to re-queen. Based on recent studies done at TAM, in my area of Texas hives with AHB matrilines (ones that would kick out AHB drones) still represent less than 1/3 of the feral hive population. These studies were conducted in wilderness areas where there was very little influence from managed hives. A hot hive does not necessarily mean that it is Africanized, particularly in the case of other hybrid bees like Buckfast as the F2 generation queens of these type bees tend to become very aggressive. In short, the answer to the question as to whether AHB are really that bad is: It depends on the degree of Africanization. Personally, I would not waste much time trying to salvage type 2 or 3 hives because of the drone issue. Type one hives however, are prime candidates for re-queening. The caveat to all of this is that you need DNA analysis to know which is which.
    "The UNKNOWN, huh? That would be SNORBERT ZANGOX over in Waycross."

  16. #16
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    May 2009
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    Orange, Tx, USA
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    Default Re: Africanized Bees - Are they really that bad?

    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.

  17. #17
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    Jun 2012
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    135

    Default Re: Africanized Bees - Are they really that bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul McCarty View Post
    OK - this is my personal rant - What I don't like is how AHB is used as a blanket term for aggressive bees. I live in an AHB hybrid area and we only rarely find truly aggressive bees. The ferals are mostly just runny and a little unpredictable. Unworkable or truly mean bees are not that common. I have found quite a few wild hives that test out as EHB that were far more aggressive than most of the African hives I deal with. Dark and mean - and usually high up in the mountains. In either case - they are just wild bees. Wild Africans are like the wild black bees of old - maybe not quite as mean.

    What many people either forget or simply don't know is that in certain areas of our country, some of the african genetics has been here since the 1500's (AMI and Iberian). It is nothing new, especially in the Desert Southwest, where it is suspected the Spanish introduced them. I have heard say it is something close to 25% in many areas, and maybe higher. I am sure this has an effect. Now Texas bees are a different genetic critter, and I have not experienced them. There is no genetic record of AMI/Iberian type bees in that region. Those conditions are more conducive to Scutellata. I have seen lot's of bees that test as african here, but only a couple that acted like classic Scutellata. I doubt most people could tell the difference in them and regular bees in most cases, yeah they can be a little wild, but they are not like people describe the Brazilian bees - and they are quite at home in our cold temps.

    Also as the Brazilian bees move northwards, they express more EHB dna traits that result in them being more like the old Black Bees of old. Apperantly the nuclear DNA is different than the Mitochrondrial DNA and different traits can be expressed based upon the survival conditions. Mito DNA never changes only shows where the mother came from. Maybe these are the bees I am seeing?

    It floors me how little is actually known, as a whole, by most beekeepers on this subject and how dogma seems to guide everything. They are just naturally selected wild bees in the end. We should not be making distinctions and dividing them up as it leads to people making profit from killing our feral bees. Just my opinion.
    I agree with the whole idea of natural conduct/ letting the Ferals to themselves, but we both have to come to terms with beekeeping as a human activity. Truly feral bee activity outside of human influence face none of this distinction and remain resilient (hence the persistence of the aggressive genes from the South American imports)

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Otero County, New Mexico, USA
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    Default Re: Africanized Bees - Are they really that bad?

    What we should be doing is breeding the non-aggressive/non-runny ones and letting their genetics spread. Can't speak for Texas bees though - you guys have a much stronger Brazilian influence.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

  19. #19
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    Jul 2004
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    Sullivan, MO
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    827

    Default Re: Africanized Bees - Are they really that bad?

    how about allowing calm nice bees to make as many drones as they want? I have said for a while now that purposely trying to limit the number of drones in our supposedly "good" hives is very detrimental to the fight against AHB. Might get a little less honey, but we might just win the genetic war.

  20. #20
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    Mar 2011
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    Default Re: Africanized Bees - Are they really that bad?

    That's exactly how to do it, though the queen carries most of the temperament genetics, to my knowledge. Use lots of virgin queens and let your drones spread far and wide.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

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