Tales From The Nest                         Go back to the tales list

A Very Bad Day In The Bee Yard

Date: October 12th, 2006

In October of 2006, Bee Solutions personnel responded to a private
apiary (bee yard) located in Nederland, Texas, after the owner called
and said one of his eight hives had become too aggressive to
approach. Our personnel parked a vehicle approximately fifty feet from
the hive for the purposes of providing a safe retreat if necessary. The
employee then approached the hive in short sleeves and no gloves,
wearing only a veil and having a smoker and hive tool in hand, which
is usually all that is necessary for working with European honey bees.

This turned out to be a serious mistake.

As soon as the employee touched the hive, approximately one
hundred bees attacked without provocation. Within thirty seconds, the
employee was forced to retreat to the safety of the parked vehicle.
After scraping the bees and stingers off, the decision was made to
leave the hive alone and see if the bees survived the winter, since
most of the experts agree that with little food coming in, and with the
winter conditions here in Southeast Texas, the bees would not be
able to survive, if they managed to migrate this far. The experts were
wrong this time: the bees came through the winter just fine.

In mid-March, Bee Solutions returned with the intention of destroying
the hive. This time our personnel were completely suited up and
prepared to exterminate the hive, and were surprised to find the bees
mildly aggressive but not overly aggressive like they were in October.
So a sample was taken, and the hive was split three ways, to slow
down their nest-building activities and make them much more
manageable. The sample was sent to the Florida Department of
Agriculture for positive identification.

Since this was not considered an emergency, it took six to seven
weeks to get the test results back. The bees tested out at 38%
Africanized. Soon our personnel will return to destroy all three hives
before they are able to build up, overcrowd the nest, and swarm
again. The main phenomenon with these Africanized hybrids is that
you can never be certain what behavior to expect from the colony: it
can range from mild to extremely aggressive. This behavior accounts
for a vast majority of attacks from these bees because ordinary
people think they understand honey bees and expect docile behavior.

We are now in a transition period where European bees are mating
with Africanized bees and the offspring are always Africanized. At the
point where the bees test out at 89% Africanized, all wild bees will be
considered 100% African. We are about two years into this process of
hybridization, and honey bees in the wild and in unmanaged colonies
are testing out at close to 40% Africanized.

This is too close to home to be taken lightly if you live in Jefferson,
Orange, Chambers, Galveston, or Harris counties. You are now
surrounded by counties confirmed to have been colonized by
Africanized bees.

You may not realize that people and livestock are being attacked and
sometimes killed by Africanized bees in Texas every season.