Honey bees or killer bees?

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Honey bees – particularly those cultivated by professional beekeepers – are quite possibly the most crucial insect species we have. There’s more to it than just the honey, too. According to the USDA, approximately one-third of our diet is made up of crops that are pollinated by bees. Many plants would not produce fruit and vegetables if it weren’t for the work accomplished by honey bees.

Unless there’s a hive or colony located near pets or people, it’s better to leave well enough alone and allow the honey bees do their thing. If you discover a hive in a place that’s troubling, a dependable exterminator can eliminate the colony or, in some instances, transfer it to a safer location.

With all that said, however, there are instances when bees can be a significant threat. “Killer” bees aren’t just a myth – they are a true phenomenon called Africanized honey bees.

All types of bees swarm from time to time, almost always during the spring. It’s a process that takes place after a new queen has become an adult and a portion of the old colony leaves to make a new hive somewhere else. Traditional honey bees swarm once a year, but Africanized honey bees (AHBs) do it as often as eight times annually.

That’s where the threat comes in. 1 bee sting, except in the rare case of a severe allergic reaction, isn’t dangerous. A dozen can send you to the emergency room. Since Africanized bees swarm in greater numbers and are typically much more competitive than ordinary honey bees, AHB swarms can easily inflict 100 or more stings in a frighteningly short time period.

Even when they aren’t swarming, AHBs are more aggressive when it comes to protecting their dwelling. They knowingly guard their hives and, while they do not randomly attack humans and creatures they experience when gathering pollen, Squirrel Poop will try to bite “invaders” who come within up to 100 feet of the colony. Normal honey bees rarely sting people who wander up to within 15 feet of their house, and even then they often won’t attack unless the hive itself is disturbed.

So how can you tell a standard honey bee and its hive from one that is Africanized? You can not, and that amplifies the danger. It’s only been recently that state and federal officials have added Arkansas and Oklahoma to the list of areas that AHBs now inhabit. They were found in southeastern Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas in 2005, but they have steadily moved into wider areas of both countries.

Today, you should think about any bee and its colony to be Africanized, merely to be on the safe side. If you see a hive, move away quickly and get a trusted pest management agency and the local county extension office. If you’re stung, RUN and do not stop running until you’re safely indoors or in some other enclosure, such as your car.

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