What Understudy said!
I just read somewhere that if the destroy all "feral" hives in Fl. recommendation had been followed we might not have the AHB problem, but it is too late now. I also read that they might have been here for a lot longer than they know due to coming in on ships before they were worried about bee importation.
I am going to inject a bit of opinion here. Some of it based on personal experience some of it with some solid backing.
Where is that soapbox?
The threat posed by AHB is overrated. It is used to justify spending money on research and keeping certain businesses in business.
The destroy all feral hives policy is a disturbingly bad one.
The fear mongering put out there by the Department of Agriculture and others is not justified.
The state used a knee jerk reaction with the push of the Exterminator lobby to implement a shoot first ask questions later policy that has not, will not and does not show any effectiveness in dealing with their supposed threat.
AHB are in Florida and have been for a very long time. As mentioned above they got in here through the ports. before they ever made the trip from South America up through Mexico and across the southern states. This isn't in dispute it just isn't put in the brochures that describe the history of AHB issues in the US.
The policy of kill kill kill was never going to be effective. The spread of AHB was already so far spread that it was well past containment. Because of the limited mind set of the Department of Agriculture and the surrounding industries and others there was no chance that this policy would work. Yet it is the same policy they enact on similar issues. For residents of Florida all I have to do is mention the Citrus Canker issue for most of them to understand what I am saying. Billions not millions were poured into a destroy everyones backyard citrus tree only to have the state run out of money and then have the hurricanes blow the canker all over the state. In the meantime the state put less than $100,000 into finding a effective treatment or vaccine for canker.
Now onto the real threat posed by AHB. Is there one? Well the movies that came out in the 70's with titles like Killer Bees (in 3D if you wanted). Faux docudrama series like In Search Of telling how dangerous these bees were going to bee. The media reporting on every bee attack as if though the only reason could be that these bees were simply aggressive and nothing had happened to provoke them. The modern day version of this happens on Animal Planet on repeat cycle that you could almost set your watch to. National Geographic more than willing to jump head first into this pool also went with the fear aspect more than the truth aspect. The state spends millions on flyers brochures and educational settings on how to deal with the AHB bee threat. There is a lot of money to made with this if you want to help preach the word of the evils of AHB(maybe I shouldn't have put that soapbox away so fast). Let me state this very clearly.There is no specific AHB threat here in Florida or anywhere else for that matter.
There can be a bee threat but it could be any type of bee. But attacks because some kid hit a nest with a baseball bat aren't as exciting for a reporter as some old lady taking her dogs for a walk that get attacked. Never realizing that the kid ran off after hitting the nest as fast as possible. This statement is not popular nor will it win me brownie points but it simply is true based on the evidence that is out there. No one wants to hear it because it can have a direct line to their wallet. People get testy when you have your hands on their wallet.
I hear the cries now. But the bees tested positive for AHB. Yeah because the ones that don't the media doesn't print those corrections. And so what if they did? The way it is made to seem is that you will have thousands of bees come after you they will dive bomb you and sting you so much that you will resemble a porcupine. The truth? That really doesn't happen that often and when it does it is not a trait specific to AHB. ........... I will wait a moment for that one to sink in. It is a tough pill to swallow. I can hear the cries now, but people have died!!! You betcha they have also died from EHB attacks you just don't hear about those because without the killer bee attack they aren't that exciting. We had the most recent death from an AHB attack happen here in our sunny state. The media was all over this like a lion after a gazelle. The gentleman rip siding off of a trailer ripping the nest into pieces. Now I am going to make a slight digression here. The worst stinging I ever got was when I dropped a hive of EHB. It was nothing sort of an ugly situation. members here have posted their horror stories. Most of them in similar circumstances. So if you didn't smoke your bees and you just ripped the upper hive box off and tossed to the side do you think you bees would be completely cool with this? I am willing to guess in most instances probably not. This kind of destruction should cause a hive to go ballistic. I would expect that the bees would do hundreds of stings. Well the gentleman only received 100 stings. From those killer bees whose house was ripped in half he only received a hundred stings. And so we can stay on the same page, 100 stings is not fatal to the average healthy adult. That number is around 1000. For the gentleman involved though 99 of those stings didn't matter he was known to be allergic to bees he had had a systemic reaction on a previous occasion. So 1 sting was enough to be fatal to him. And whether it had been AHB or EHB did not matter there is no difference in the venom. So these mean horrible bees only stung him 100 times he should have had thousands of stings the way the media and government make it sound. Maybe someone is lying. Now you can say this is all a straw man argument but the evidence and my experience show otherwise.
Now I am not saying you should go forth and threaten to attack people with AHB or infest their area with them that is just stupid. Just don't buy the hype. Because the truth is even more interesting.
So what do we know about AHB.
1. They are a better bee. Biologically they are just superior. They are survivors. They exist better in tropical climates than EHB do. And they have for millions of years.
2. They swarm more frequently. And they do it with smaller groups. What you may think is an after swarm is a standard AHB swarm. Now the swarms can be large but with AHB they will survive with a queen and a few hundred workers.
3. They withstand disease better this could be part of number 1 but I separated it because those raise AHB people in South America and similar areas hardly ever treat with chemicals. They simply don't need to.
Let's go over another common myth I have been hearing. AHB are more likely to build their nests in weird places like water meters and BBQs. If the nest is near the ground they must be AHB. Right? Nope all of that in my experience is completely wrong. Test results on my hives show that EHB down here will grab what they can for a home. I posted a while back of the guy who killed the hive in BBQ by putting a can of insecticide on a rake and sliding it under the BBQ. Well the pics of the hive came from Australlia. They don't have an AHB problem (that we know of).
Bees be they AHB or EHB are resourceful will build on a tree branch just as quickly as they will in the hollow of the floorboards of your tool shed. a home is a home is a home.
Well how do you deal with all of the hype and fear that exists out there? Education. AHB are here to stay and that doesn't mean you are going to die. Ride on I 95 to the Golden Glades Interchange now that is dangerous.
Boy this thing a has gotten long and probably boring so I will stop now. It's nice to whip out the soapbox on occasion though. Maybe Dallas can tell you how dangerous those AHB were at the Southeast Organic Beekeepers Conference. Right after I shook them all off the frame.