Africanization vs. Domestic Size Characteristics

A letter from Dee A. Lusby to the Agricultural Committee

5 July 1987

Southern Arizona Beekeepers Association
Dee A. Lusby
3832 East Golflinks Road
Tucson, Arizona 85713

Subject: Seemingly Incongruousness of Morphometric Measurements of Honeybees as Relates to Africanization vs Domestic Size Characteristics.

Chairman – Agricultural Committee
E. “Kika” De La Garza
1301 Longworth HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515

Subcommittee – Operations Research and Foreign Agriculture
George E. Brown
2256 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515

Morris K. Udall – Rep
235 Cannon HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Attn: Mary Brooks

Honorable Gentlemen:

Please reference my 20 May 1987 letter in which I stated that the Southern Arizona Beekeepers Association is now currently asking the Biology and Evolution Department of the U of A for help in Analysis in morphometric identification of our various bee races and strains found in this country, namely Southern Arizona.

We have now hit a slight problem that I believe needs attention while it still can be corrected. Specificially, in talks with Dr M. A. Houck Ph.D., Dept of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Univ of Ariz., we have learned that the Fast Africanized Bee Identification System – FABIS; and based on morphometric research done at the University of California at Berkeley by Dr H. V. Daly, is seriously flawed. They do not take into consideration size from shape cause and effects by geographic location and natural selection.

When further asked what this meant, we were advised that sowehow, a geometric analysis of form using multi-variate statistics “PCA Analysis” to seperate size-effects from size-independent effects on bee body form does not seem to have been performed. Without this analysis various races and strains cannot be correctly identified.

In view of this information, we asked what information was available on bee identification from our various land grant universities. We were advised that identification had been accomplished on most insects i.e. bollweevil, grasshoppers, flies, blister-bugs, locusts, etc, but that there was a void on bee identification morphometric analysis bacause most of the land grant universities assumed that the ARS or the USDA was carrying out this responsibility.

In checking further we have learned that there is nowhere in the United States a facility where beekeepers can send their bees for quantitative analysis for race/strain determination for bee breeding quality control purposes. We have found out that FABIS does not use color in differentiation of Africanization to tell small subfamilies apart by race and degree of hybridization. We have found that FABIS etc is based on the size of AHB found and measured in South America but not projected as to what the measurements will be when the bees reach the southern United States. We have found out that the current AHB cell measurements now used to show Africanization in Costa Rica are larger than good Italian bee cell measurements taken and written about in the American Bee Journal September 1969 issue by J. Woyke, Warsaw, Poland “African Honey Bees in Brazil”. We have found that current bee identification practice lumps all European bees together for measurement purposes, but does not seperate out Eurasian bee measurements. (The three main races commingled in this country are: Italian, Carnolian, both European; and Caucasian which is Eurasian). We have found out that G.E. Cantwell, USDA, Beltsville, Md wrote the American Bee Journal, October 1974 “The African (Brazilian) Bee Problem” that it is obvious that the cell size of worker cells measured on newly drawn comb varies greatly from region to region in this hemisphere. (Note: With cell size so varies worker size by geographical region.)

In further checking papers in the Carl Hayden Bee Research Facility Library, we found and noted that tbe FABIS Identification System carries a warning. Quote:

“The sensitivity of this technique necessitates a warning. Ideally, users should verify that the European bees in their area are similar to the European bees in this study before these procedures are used to detect Africanization. If the European bees are not similar, especially if they are smaller, locally collected baseline data may be used to develop new discriminate functions or at least be considered in evaluating results. Such new functions would be more appropriate to the users’ needs.”

In checking, only Florida has been found to be taking pre-African bee samples of domestic stock to take into consideration the variation in these measurements. No other state is doing so.

In further checking with the U of A we have been told that a complete morphometric analysis must include drone measurements which up to now has not been done by the USDA/ARS. All European countries use both worker bees and drones in analysis, currently, except the United States. In researching, it has been found that from pre-1900 through WWII that both worker bees and drone measurements were used in this country for analysis by the likes of such men as: E.F. Phillips, D.B. Casteel, V.L. Kellogg and R.G. Bell. After WWII the habit of measuring both somehow stopped. Why and how is not completely known. What is known is that there is less variance to be found in measuring worker bees with 32 Chromosomes than measuring drones with 16 Chromosomes, and since drones are considered haploid and simply represent an unfertilized matured sex cell of his mother, then genetically when a drone mates with a queen, it is, in effect, a mating between the drone’s mother and the new virgin queen. Since there would be more variance in measuring drones for differences by race/strain it does not sound logical to leave half the morphometric measurements undone and just measure the harder to gauge 32 chromosomes of the workers.

In view of the above, certain questions come to mind that therefore need answering prior to the Africanized bees arriving in the Southern United States and particularly Arizona.

1. If each country has measured different in cell size and morphometric analysis for the AHB as they progress north through our hemisphere, why has this not been built into our present measurement system?

2. If the cell sizes taken in the sixties and fifties show good Italian bee stocks to be smaller than today’s AHB cell measurements now taken in Costa Rica and Mexico, then what domestic stocks are being truly depopulated in this country other than aggressive bees turned in by, in most all cases, unprofessionals/hobbiests, not accustomed to dealing with the various temperments of bees at different times of the year and season?

3. Why are not race, color, and racial size characteristics taken into consideration between the various subfamilies within our hives?

4. Why have all of the bee races, major to this country, been grouped together as European when they exhibit different race characteristics and one actually is in itself an Eurasian bee of known comprobable size characteristics to the AHB?

5. If AHB measurements have now indeed exceeded good morphometric measurements for natural bred domestic stock rather than artificial bred domestic stock, are we going to be destroying our better bee stock lines of commercial beekeepers because they refuse to learn artificial practices and inbreed with closed populations that in the long haul over the period of a century or less will break down?

6. If our land grant universities can measure all bugs regardless of size and tell them apart by region, area, etc., why can’t they use their software/computers already in place and measure for the ARS/USDA unbiased, the various bee races/strains in this country, to quickly identify for them the size differences, color differences, they have inadvertently overlooked? It’s been mentioned that one good person with proper software, bee samples, and 1- 1-1/2 years time might complete the missing analysis. Once completed, besides using against the AHB, the data could be used for the first time to give this country a quality control bee breeding tool by our bee industry.

In all, I feel the above was due your attention, as an industry in Southern Arizona, we will be needing the information resolved if we are to successfully breed to dilute the AHB when they arrive and alleviate the problem through genetic natural selection with man’s help.

Supporting documents and/or references are provided below.

Thank you for your time again.


Dee A. Lusby – President
Southern Arizona Beekeepers Assoc


1. African Honey Bees in Brazil – J. Woyke, ABJ Sept 69
2. The African (Brazilian) Bee Problem – Cantwell, ABJ Oct 74
3. FABIS Manual – Rinderer, Sylvester, Baton Rouge, La USDA
4. Status of the Africanized Bee Find in Calif, Cobey & Lawrence, ABJ, Sept 85
5. A Survey of Current Beekeeping Practices in Calif, Gordon, Locke,
Nasr, Tyler, Webster, ABJ Dec 86

Reference: African Bee Study Team Committee with Dr C.D. Michener of
U of Kansas, Dr H.E. Esch, Notre Dame, Dr N.E. Gary, U of Calif, Dr S.P.
Hubbell, U of Mich, Dr W.C. Rothenbuhler, Ohio State; Drs M.V. Smith &
G.F. Townsend, U of Guelph, Ontario Canada. Committee Report submitted Beltsville 1972 after extensive study.

Variation and Correlation in the appendages of the Honeybee, E.F. Phillips, Feb 1929, Cornell University