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Dr, Killer Bee 4 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

But won't the Africanized bees just evolve to survive the harsher winters?

Image of Queen Bee
Scientists place a tag on the queen to find her easily in the hive.

That's a big unknown. They could evolve to swarm less and store more honey. Well, that's pretty close to a European bee. That's regular old natural selection. But let's not forget about artificial selection. We don't have to be passive bystanders.

Good old Mendelian genetics would probably be the easiest way. There's a wise old beekeeper around here who's decided to devote himself to breeding nice bees that do well living in the desert. With artificial selection, Mendelian genetics, good record keeping and a good brain, he's breeding European bees that are tolerant to bee mites, parasites that kill entire colonies. These parasites are the biggest pests to bees worldwide right now.

He's doing this right in the middle of the Africanized bee territory, so they are interbreeding with his bees. Over time, his bees are getting progressively testy. But the bottom line is they are still manageable, still disease and mite tolerant and still making lots of honey. Basically, what we want are bees that are enough below the threshold of testiness that we can stand them.

Could artificial selection solve the killer bee problem entirely?

In the early 1800's, the European bees weren't much nicer than today's Africanized bees. In the 1850's, a beekeeper invented the movable white box type of hive that let you open the hive, take it apart and find the queen. That gave beekeepers the ability to select for the traits they wanted. Through artificial selection, we went from nasty to nice decent bees within a half-century. So this has a precedent, and not just in bees but in every other domesticated animal.

Photo Of Bees and Blue Shoes
One day, aggressiveness may be artificially bred from the killer bee.

One problem is that bees are now extremely important to agriculture for pollination. We move them around like everything else. As of now, if we get Africanized bees we won't know if the bees we will be sending around are in fact suitable for shipping, safe for workers to handle, safe to release near highways etc. The biggest problem will be human problems. Those issues will be much harder to resolve than the biological ones.

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4 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

Photos: Justin O. Schmidt

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