and why were the African bees brought to the Americas?
bees are currently found in five U.S. states: Texas,
Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California.
were brought here in 1956 by Dr. Warwick Kerr, a pioneering
geneticist. Brazil's honey industry was in terrible shape.
The government came to him and asked him to breed a bee that
would do well in Brazil's tropical environment. South Africa
had very sophisticated beekeeping. They had good bees and
made lots of money. Plus, the climate in Pretoria was almost
identical to that of Brazil. So Kerr got some African bees
and set up apiaries.
what happened isn't exactly clear and there are some nice
conspiracy theories, but some got away. At the time, nobody
was aware of the severity of the stinging problem. They knew
the African bees were a little more aggressive, but they thought
they could breed that out of them. So Kerr and his colleagues
set about the task of fixing and neutralizing the bees. They
were successful and now Brazil is fourth in the world in honey
Kerr was vilified, but he did a tremendous service to the
Brazilians. Brazilian beekeepers love these bees. They are
a little bit testy, but the neighbors won't be able to steal
them or the honey. These are the same bees we now have roaring
around Tucson, Arizona.
makes these bees such a problem in the United States?
Brazilian beekeepers love these bees. These are the
same bees we now have roaring around Tucson, Arizona.
They "pioneer swarm." Like the pioneers who opened the frontier,
the average guy was a little socially rougher and tougher
than the guys who stayed in Boston and New York. The nastiest
most defensive bees go north. Their wimpier colleagues wouldn't
do well, because each time they'd arrive in a new place, predators
would test them out, and the wimpy ones wouldn't make it.
The nasty bees, well, the predators learn to leave them alone.
It's like the Marines. The selection process favors the toughest
and meanest and the most defensive.
What geographic or climatic factors
are likely to keep the Africanized bees in check?
stings can cause an allergic reaction in certain animals
as well as humans.
As they get into more temperate climates, the Africanized
bees don't deal as well with the long periods with no food.
Our bees are adapted to get through a long winter. They swarm
in late May- early June, and if they're lucky, they'll have
enough time to store enough food for the winter. Our bees
have evolved to swarm less often and early. They resist abandoning
the parent nest.
In Africa, bees give up that nest any time of the year to
avoid predators or lack of flowers. They can always find some
flowers somewhere, so they can pick up and take off anytime.
If they tried that in Salt Lake City, they are guaranteed
not to make it through the winter.
Also, farther north, they'll run into very well adapted European
honeybees. Where the Africanized bees are now, the European
bees are kind of on the margins of where they're suited to
live. Certainly, in the northeast and the Midwest, the European
bees are wonderfully adapted and the Africanized bees coming
in are really kind of marginal. In those places, the Africanized
bees are outside the limits of where they do well. Where is
the line? Everyone has a different opinion, but there will
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Chedd-Angier; Justin O. Schmidt