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Africanized Honeybee

Published on: 10/30/2013 4:46 PM
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The Africanized honeybee

The Africanized Honeybee (AHB) poses a serious treat to California. The adverse impact in not limited to public health and safety, but also to emergency services, parks and recreation. In addition, AHB threatens to disrupt the commercial beekeeping industry that provides services vital to many of California's most important agricultural crops.

Background: The Africanized honeybee has steadily migrated northward since its accidental release from a breeding program in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1957. Migrating 200-300 miles per year, the bees have established themselves throughout South and Central America. Africanized honeybees are found throughout most of Mexico, and were first detected in southern Texas in 1990. AHB is now in Arizona and New Mexico. Naturally migrating swarms of AHB entered California in October 1994.

As of 2005, the AHB colonized area in California is approximately 63,303 square miles and includes all of Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Tulare, and Ventura counties. Also included are portions of Inyo, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara counties.

Economic Impact: AHB pose a serious threat to California. The adverse impact is not limited to public health and safety, but also to emergency services, parks and recreation, and to the potential loss of bees for pollination of crops vital to our economy and food supply.

Honeybees play an integral role in the pollination of 42 different nut, fruit, vegetable, forage, and seed crops directly valued at $1.5 billion per year. Bees pollinate crops such as almonds, melons, plums, cherries, avocados, prunes, strawberries, and vegetable seeds.

Biology: Our common honeybee, the European Honey Bee, has been in California since the 1800's. AHB look identical to our European bees, and scientists use laboratory analysis to differentiate the two races.

AHB are known for their tendency to aggressively defend their hive. They typically inflict ten times as many stings per encounter than their European relatives and will pursue an intruder up to 1/4 mile. They swarm more often and for a longer period of the year. AHB have been blamed for more than 300 deaths in Venezuela and dozens of fatalities in South and Central America.

For additional information regarding AHB, interested individuals may contact the Santa Clara County Vector Control District at (408) 918-4770.