Africanized bees migrating according to researchers
AccuWeather.com reports nearly 100,000 killer bees invaded a home near Houston in June. The bees developed their colony in the home that was vacant for two years.
KHOU-tv reported on June 6 that the killer bees swarmed the neighbors’ dog, killing the family pet. The bees were removed and taken away by a trained beekeeper.
The invasion could be the result of migration, researchers suspect. Jerry Hayes, the “honeybee guy” at Monsanto, said that the killer bees, which are Africanized bees, migrate where there are warm temperatures. Research also suggests that the bees’ behavior changes with weather and fluctuations in barometric pressure.
Hayes describes them as “super-bees” which travel up to 300 miles per year to inhabit tropical to sub-tropical climates.
Professor of Entomology at Penn State University and Director of the PSU Center of Pollinator Research, Dr. Christina Grozinger, said that temperature plays a key role in where the bees migrate. Africanized bees have been found within the last five years as far as the Southeast coast.
Africanized bees originated in Africa and were brought over by researchers to Latin America. Researchers believed that since the climates were similar the bees would be able to survive and produce honey. Instead, they continued to migrate farther north due to the subtropical-like temperatures that occupy much of Arizona and Texas during the summer months.
Africanized bees are unable to survive in cold climates. Once the temperature begins to change, they migrate south or die off.
Hayes said that the bees can predict when winter is coming. Unlike Africanized bees, European bees, who originated from Europe, have the ability to survive during the winter.
“European honeybees act as a thermostat, expand during summer and when it gets cold they contract over winter to maintain their temperature of 93 degrees F,” he said.
Africanized bees did not adapt to survive in cold temperatures; therefore, they will die in the winter months.
Hayes also said that the bees start to behave differently when there is a change in barometric pressure. Before it rains, they retreat to their hive and can become more aggressive. The bees are attuned to vibrations and may come back to the hive more defensive than when they left.
Due to the amount of predators Africanized bees faced in their native environment, they are naturally more aggressive than European honeybees.
Researchers are now questioning whether humid air causes bees to be more defensive. Dr. Eric Mussen, extension apiculturist in the entomology department at the University of California-Davis, said that this question has not yet been answered.
Africanized bees are valued for their honey production and their ability to pollinate flowers. The bees, which were brought over to Brazil for economic gain, have made the country one of the leading producers of honey.