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Africanized Honeybees (Apis mellifera scutellata) are of the same species as the more well known European honeybee, but belong to a different race or subspecies, meaning that they have similar characteristics but come from different geographic regions. The two look nearly identical, and can only be distinguished from one another by measuring differences under a microscope and analyzing their DNA.
Although the AHB looks like our European honey bee, it can be differentiated by a laboratory examination and computer analysis. An identification method called Fast Africanized Bee Identification System is currently being used. First, a bee sample is taken and the wings are measured. Results are then compared with standard European bee wing measurements. If the results indicate a probable positive AHB, a complete body part measuring analysis is conducted.
The variation between these two types of bees can be attributed mostly to differences in behavior as affected by climate, predator abundance, and resource distribution. European honeybees, as their name suggests, evolved in areas of Europe with temperate climates, whereas Africanized bees are native to southern Africa and thus evolved in tropical climates. Both races are social and nest inside hives, but European honeybees reproduce more slowly, build larger nests and rarely abandon them.
Life Cycle: Both European and Africanized queens are responsible for reproduction in their colonies. Their drones mate with the queens, while the workers, which are sterile females, collect nectar and pollen and defend the colony.
European and Africanized workers have barbed stingers. When either type of bee stings a human, it leaves both the stinger and tiny, attached venom sac. This causes the bee to die soon after. If you are stung, simply scrape the stinger out to remove it.
The venom of an AHB is no more poisonous than that of their European counterparts. However, they are more defensive if provoked. The stinging response of AHBs is 10 times greater than that of European honey bees. Vibrations from motors, such as a power lawn mower or weed whacker, particularly seem to disturb them. When provoked, the bees will wander as far as a quarter mile from their nest to chase an intruder. However, individual AHBs on foraging trips for nectar and pollen are no more likely to sting than our European honey bees â€“ they are not wanton killers.
Africanized honey bees tend to colonize large areas and swarm excessively. Also, the bees will leave the colony completely and move to a new location when conditions in the environment do not suit them â€“ a special trait known as absconding. Africanized honey bees may abscond on flights of several miles.
Benefit: Africanized honeybees in the tropics directly influence 25-30% of the reproductive success of the flora. The flora depends on the bees for pollination, and in turn, flora provide seeds and fruit for their own reproductive success and as food for other organisms.
There are two views about the influences that Africanized Honey Bees have on crops. Pollination of crops can continue even if an area has been fully colonized by Africanized bees. The first argument contends that farmersâ€™ costs to produce crops increases because of the required public protection from Africanized bees and the increasing costs of purchasing European Honey Bees for pollination. The other view argues that Africanized honeybees are better pollinators than European honeybees because they emphasize brood rearing and colony growth instead of honey production. The shift in resource management allows Africanized honeybees to forage more for pollen than European bees. Therefore, Africanized bees can be regarded as superior pollinators. In Sinaloa Mexico, Africanized honeybees have invaded the area but have not caused any problems in crop harvests and production.
Threat: Africanized Honey Bees are dangerous because they attack intruders in numbers much greater than European Honey Bees. Since their introduction into Brazil, they have killed some 1,000 humans, with victims receiving ten times as many stings than from the European strain. They react to disturbances ten times faster than European Honey Bees, and will chase a person a quarter of a mile.
Control Method: Even though the ecological range limits and economic consequences of the African Honey Bee migration into the United States are not precisely known, specialists agree that honey bees are economically important, and that sufficient biological information exists to develop adequate inventory and monitoring programs. Added benefits to honey bee monitoring programs are also important because bee colonies can also serve as excellent indicators of flowering plant productivity, ecosystem stability, and relative ecological health.
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