Friday, November 5, 2010

Africanized bees in Georgia

Please read the information below from Dr. Keith Delaplane, Extension Apiculturist, regarding first documented record of Africanized bees in Georgia.

For more information please read below and you can also visit this page for a handout.

A human fatality occurred from a massive bee sting incident near Albany, GA on Oct, 11, 2010. The victim was operating a tractor and mower, aggravated a nest of bees, and received over 100 stings. Bee samples were collected by personnel of the Georgia Department of Agriculture and submitted to laboratories managed by the Florida Department of Agriculture with capacity for performing the appropriate diagnoses. On 20 October we received confirmation from Florida that the bees associated with the Albany stinging fatality are in fact Africanized honey bees (AHBs). This constitutes the first record of Africanized bees in Georgia. A press release is soon forthcoming from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and you can anticipate questions in the days and weeks ahead.

Africanized bees, sometimes called “killer bees,” have been present in the United States since October 1990. They have been confirmed in Florida since 2005. These bees are a sub-species of honey bee and capable of inter-breeding with the European honey bee well-known throughout Georgia as an important pollinator and producer of honey. Unfortunately, the African variety is extremely defensive and responds with a massive stinging reaction with little provocation.

1. Be cautious around places where Africanized bees are likely to nest, such as abandoned sheds, bee hive equipment, discarded tires and subterranean cavities.

2. If you are attacked, RUN AWAY. You may think this sounds silly, but experience has taught us that people do NOT run away. Instead, they stand and swat which simply escalates the defensive frenzy until it reaches lethal proportions.

3. Get inside a closed vehicle or building as fast as possible, and STAY there. Do not worry if a few bees follow you inside. Here’s another hard lesson we’ve learned. People do NOT stay inside a closed vehicle if a few bees follow them inside. Instead, they panic and flee back outside where tens of thousands of angry bees attack them. Maybe it’s a bizarre form of claustrophobia, but this pattern has repeated itself over and over in the stinging incidents we’ve monitored in Latin America and the Southwest USA. Get inside. Stay inside.

4. European bees and beekeepers are our best defense against AHBs. In response to Africanized honey bees, some communities may consider zoning restrictions against all forms of beekeeping. This essentially cedes territory to the enemy. Only gentle European bees can genetically dilute the defensive Africanized variety.

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