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Africanized Honey Bees Found in Rio Grande River Valley

News Release, Office of Press and Media Relations, USDA, 1990

WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 17–Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture today confirmed that a swarm of Africanized honey bees (AHB) has been detected and destroyed in the Rio Grande River Valley near Hidalgo, Texas. Africanized honey bees have been moving northward from South America since 1957.

“The Africanized honey bee swarm detected near Hidalgo is the first such swarm found to have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.” said James W. Glosser, administrator of USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. “We are conducting surveys and intensified trapping to determine whether other AHB swarms are present. APHIS is committed to helping agricultural officials in Texas eliminate initial swarms.”

Officials with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service found the swarm on Oct. 15 during a regular check of ARS swarm traps in the area. These traps, which have a chemical lure or pheromone to attract and capture migrating swarms, have been in place for a number of years to help ARS researchers gather data on honey bee swarms.

The swarm was destroyed and samples of the honey bees were identified by the ARS laboratory in Weslaco, Texas, and confirmed as Africanized by the ARS Bee Identification Laboratory in Beltsville, MD. The ARS facility in Beltsville is the only one authorized to confirm AHB identifications for USDA.

“Although this is the first time we have trapped a natural introduction of Africanized honey bees in the United States,” Glosser said, “we have intercepted and eliminated AHB swarms artificially introduced on ships arriving from South and Central America many times since 1979. The Agricultural Research Service has been instrumental in identifying these swarms.”

Glosser said APHIS, the federal agency responsible for protecting U.S. agriculture from foreign pests and disease, will work with the Texas Apiary Inspection Service based at Texas A&M University to eliminate other initial swarms if they are detected. APHIS and ARS will continue to inspect honey bee traps in south Texas to monitor the spread of the AHB front through Mexico into the United States.