Africanized Honeybees

Africanized Honeybees

By David Fleshler, Sun Sentinel7:28 p.m. EDT, May 13, 2014
It's swarm season for Africanized honeybees, as the least desirable tenants in South Florida look for tree cavities, overturned flower pots and other cozy spaces to establish new hives.As the weather warms and flowers bloom, bee colonies split, deploy scouts and find new places to live. Calls to bee removal services spike at this time of year, as many people make the dismaying discovery that they have become landlords to up to 15,000 of the aggressive insects dubbed "killer bees.""We've been getting lots of calls," said José Raúl Mena, owner of Crazy Bee Man, of Hialeah. The company tries to take the bees alive when possible to produce honey. "We have already removed 14 hives that were extremely aggressive. Any opening bigger than an eighth of an inch, the bees will go in. It could be the eaves over the roof area, the water meter, in the floors, empty vases upside down, inside boats under the captain's cabin, a lot of trees.

Traps set out in Palm Beach County have caught 20 swarms since late March, said William Kern, associate professor of entomology at the University of Florida. Although Africanized honeybees can swarm at any month of the year, he said, they are particularly active in March through June, as colonies grow larger from the nectar of Brazilian pepper flowers, becoming so big that they need to split up and find new homes.Africanized honeybees represent a hybrid that developed after the escape of African bees imported into Brazil to serve as pollinators. Thought to have arrived in Florida in 2001 in a cargo ship, they spread quickly, and today represent an estimated 90 percent or more of the wild honeybees south of Interstate 4."They pollinate the same, they make honey the same, they're just more defensive," said David Westervelt, assistant chief of apiary inspection for the Florida Department of Agriculture.The defensiveness accounts for the "killer bee" label – although people in the bee trade tend to just call them AHBs. They have been known to attack a human for approaching within 50 feet of a nest and chase them for up to a mile. They have killed two Florida residents since 2008, and last year a Texas man was stung to death after he drove his tractor into a pile of wood that contained a hive of 40,000 of them.

At a recent call in Weston, where the bees were stinging anyone who walked past the house in which they had established their hive, the bees attacked as soon as the Crazy Bee Man crew put the ladder on the roof. Upon opening up the roof, they found nearly 200 pounds of honeycomb, enough to fill four heavy industrial trash bags.At Tropical Apiaries of Southwest Ranches, owner John Herring said he goes on about five bee removal calls a week. He took 7,000 to 10,000 bees out of a house in Pembroke Pines, removing them through a softball-sized hole he made in the roof. At a job in North Lauderdale, he removed 35 pounds of honeycomb.Tuesday afternoon, clad in a white protective suit of dubious value – he has been stung many times through it – Herring walked into the backyard of a house in the Driftwood section of Hollywood. A few bees buzzed around the lid of a water meter box sunk into the ground, a classic spot for Africanized honeybees to establish a hive.He pried open the lid and exposed the hive: rows of gooey yellow honeycomb thick with bees. They buzzed around in the hundreds as he set to work finding the queen – once he captures her, the others would follow.From several yards away, homeowner Ryan Lasseter watched. Aware of the importance of pollinators and the threat to bees from colony collapse disorder, the mysterious worldwide disappearance of honeybee colonies, he chose Herring's company because he would remove them alive."I was concerned about colony collapse so I looked for someone that wasn't going to kill them," said Lasseter. "I know the issue with numbers dwindling and their importance in producing our food."The colony turned out to be small, with just 3,500 to 4,000 bees. Failing to locate a queen, Herring piled the sticky honeycomb into a bucket specially designed with a hole in one side to let the bees in. Drawn by the scent, the bees started crowding in through the hole.The bees would soon be on their way to Herring's bee farm, where they would produce the honey he sells at farmers' markets."It's better to save them," Herring said. "About a third of our food has to be pollinated by bees. They're a very beneficial insect."[email protected], 954-356-4535

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Phone: 954-471-8120
Dated: May 13th 2014
Views: 239
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