africanized honey bees in florida
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Africanized Honey Bees in Florida. Bee aware ... look, listen, run. Adam H. Putnam, Commissioner Wayne N. Dixon, Division Director. History of Honey Bees. Bees evolved from wasps 80 million years ago Spanish brought over first honeybee colonies in the 16 th century

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africanized honey bees in florida

Africanized Honey Beesin Florida

Bee aware ... look, listen, run

Adam H. Putnam, Commissioner

Wayne N. Dixon, Division Director


History of Honey Bees

  • Bees evolved from wasps 80 million years ago
  • Spanish brought over first honeybee colonies in the 16th century
  • Dubbed “white man’s flies” by Native American tribes
florida beekeeping
Florida Beekeeping
  • Florida beekeeping developed between 1872 and 1888
  • Reported in 1879 that most everyone in Daytona area kept several colonies
  • Apiaries began to be established all over state after 1888
  • 1920 Florida held the world record for honey production
florida beekeeping1
Florida Beekeeping
  • Apiary inspection was created by Legislative Act 1919
  • 250,000 colonies maintained by registered beekeepers (last 3 years)
  • 56,000 colonies inspected from 3,400 apiaries per year

AHB - History

  • First bred to create a honeybee better suited for tropical conditions
  • 1957 - 26 African queen bees were accidentally released from breeding in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Deep Water Ports of Florida

Florida has 14 deep water ports


What is FDACS/DPI doing to prevent AHB’s from entering Florida?

  • Maintaining 500 bait traps throughout the state to intercept introduction of AHBs
  • Conducting analytical tests to determine AHBs genetics
  • Working w/multiple entities to educate/train

  • Cone style trap is made from recycled wood pulp
  • Lures used to attract bees into swarm traps or hives

Swarm trap

Swarm lure

facts about swarms
Facts About Swarms
  • Swarms are a way colonies divide when they get too large for their current hive location
  • The old queen and some of the workers leave the old colony to find a new colony at a new location.
  • Bees in swarms are not defensive because they do not have resources (honey and babies) to defend.
ahb planning collaboration and training in florida
AHB Planning Collaboration and Training in Florida
  • Formed Africanized Bee Working Group
  • Devoting research funds to AHB
  • Providing funds to the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences for a “Train the Trainer” curriculum
  • Partnership with Florida State Beekeepers Association
the truth about africanized honey bees
The Truth About Africanized Honey Bees
  • Africanized honey bees (AHB) are the same species as European honey bees (EHB).
  • The sting of the AHB is not more dangerous or toxic than EHB.
  • You cannot tell an AHB from a EHB by looking at them.

AHB - Behavior/Defensive Response

  • Three to four times as many bees respond to threat
  • 10 times more stings per encounter compared to European honey bees
  • Defend wider area around nest compared to European honey bees
  • Can chase victims for ¼ mile
at risk groups
At-Risk Groups
  • People likely to interact with bees
    • Outdoor workers
      • Foresters and fire fighters
      • Parks and recreation personnel
      • Landscapers
      • Utility workers
      • Land clearing equipment operators
    • Military during training
    • Sports enthusiasts
    • Rescue personnel
at risk groups1
At-Risk Groups
  • These people are at greater risk from encounters with feral AHB colonies because they are less able to escape the situation.
  • Small Children
  • Elderly
  • Handicapped
at risk groups2
At-Risk Groups
  • Animals at risk
    • Tethered or restrained animals.
    • Penned, caged, or corralled.
    • Horses and bees don’t mix.
ahb interactions in florida
2008 - First human fatality resulting from AHB stings occurred in Okeechobee County

Horse killed in LaBelle (Lee County)

Dog killed in Fort Myers (Lee County)

Dogs killed in Miami Gardens (Miami-Dade County) – dogs’ owners sent to hospital, firemen (first responders) injured

City workers in Moore Haven (Glades County) sent to hospital

Farm worker in Brevard County injured

Four dogs killed (Palm Beach County), property owner injured

Many more reports of stinging incidents throughout state, primary in South Florida

AHB Interactions in Florida

2008 interactions will only increase


What should you do to avoid being stung?

What should you do if you are being attacked by stinging insects?

bee alert
Bee Alert
  • Check the environment around your homes regularly for possible bee nesting sites – plug holes
  • Look for bees in work areas before using power equipment – noise excites bees
bee proofing
Bee Proofing

Hole leading to cavity

  • Africanized honey bees nest in a wide variety of locations
    • Need openings >1/8 inch, cavity behind the opening for a nest
  • Eliminate shelter
    • Caulk cracks in walls, foundation, and roof
    • Fill or screen holes >1/8-inch in trees, structures, or block walls
    • Screen attic vents, irrigation boxes, and water meter box holes
    • Remove trash or debris that might shelter honey bees
    • Fill or cover animal burrows
    • Secure window screens to fit tightly
    • Close shed doors tightly and keep in good repair
colony removal
Colony Removal
  • Disturbing a defensive colony by untrained personnel could endanger people and pets up to 150 yards away from colony.
  • Only experienced persons with protective equipment should attempt to remove or eliminate bee colonies.
    • Improper removal can cause bees to attack bystanders.
    • Numerous insecticides are approved for use on bees.
    • Use foam. Soapy water doesn\'t work effectively on a colony because honey comb prevents adequate coverage.

Bee aware ... look, listen, run

  • If attacked, cover your mouth and nose and run inside a building, vehicle or other enclosure
  • Don’t swat at bees – only makes them more defensive
  • Don’t jump in a pool – they’ll wait for you
  • If stung, scrape off the stinger with a fingernail or credit card
  • Call a pest control company to remove the hive
  • Seek medical attention if necessary

Stinger in arm

putting ahb into perspective
Putting AHB Into Perspective
  • AHB are more aggressive than EHB.
  • AHB swarm more and produce more feral colonies.
  • AHB nest in more and smaller spaces than EHB.
  • In terms of aggressive defense of the colony and potential number of stings, AHB are comparable to our native yellow jackets or bald-faced hornets.
bee aware public awareness program

Educate the public about potential dangers of AHB, while at the same time stressing the importance of managed honey bee colonies to Florida agriculture

Bee Aware . . .Public Awareness Program

AHB Outreach Activities

  • Interface/Educate/Train
  • Established Inter-Agency Working Group
  • Make presentations/ attend statewide conferences
  • Develop/distribute brochures, fact sheets, videos, PSAs, school curriculums
ahb inter agency working group
State agencies (public health, emergency management, tourism, environmental services, Ag law, Forestry), industry representatives, University of Florida IFAS, ag officials from Georgia and Alabama

Mission: to share information and speak with one voice

AHB Inter-Agency Working Group
ahb inter agency working group1
Create/maintain Intranet Web site to share information

Develop easy-to-remember slogan for responding to potential AHB attacks

Conduct statewide presentations to stakeholder groups

AHB Inter-Agency Working Group

Bee aware ... look, listen, run


Importance of Managed Colonies in Mitigating AHB

  • Managed colonies dilute AHB populations.
  • Prevent AHB takeover of European honeybee hives.
  • AHB are less likely attracted to areas where other foragers exist.
beekeepers are valuable
Beekeepers are Valuable

European honey bees are the first and best deterrent against an area becoming Africanized.

public outreach efforts what works what doesn t
Clear message works:

AHB’s are here and they are potentially dangerous . . .

Public Outreach Efforts: What works/what doesn’t
public outreach efforts what works what doesn t1
Present concise information on what to do if attacked by stinging insects such as AHBs:

Be aware of your surroundings (look for bees, listen for buzzing)

If attacked, run, seek shelter inside

Scrape off stingers

Contact PCO to remove hive

Seek medical attention if necessary

Public Outreach Efforts: What works/what doesn’t
public outreach efforts what works what doesn t2
People are interested in AHBs – getting their attention should be easy

Use existing communication tools to educate your audiences (newsletters, utility bill inserts, Web site links, etc.)

Encourage the public to be knowledgeable and prepared, not to panic

We can learn to live with AHBs as we have yellow jackets, fire ants, etc.

Public Outreach Efforts: What works/what doesn’t
public outreach efforts what works what doesn t3
Greatest challenges:

Getting the word out – interfacing w/other entities

Explaining the importance of managed colonies (food does not originate at Publix)

Public Outreach Efforts: What works/what doesn’t

Africanized Honey Bees do not intentionally try to hurt people. They are simply defending their territory. If people disturb the hive, or if a hive is accidentally disturbed, the bees are likely to react adversely. Generally, the chances of being injured by any stinging insect are slim.


With that in mind you still have to be aware of this potential threat and know how to react if you encounter Africanized Bees as you would with any other natural threat such as lightning, snakes or other biting/stinging insects.

Being aware of your surroundings and taking simple precautions is the best defense against Africanized honey bees.

fdacs dpi apiary trivia
FDACS/DPI Apiary Trivia
  • FDACS/DPI staff served as technical consultants on Ulee’s Gold(Peter Fonda’s Oscar-winning film)
fdacs dpi helpline 888 397 1517 www doacs state fl us pi


Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

Division of Plant Industry

thank you

Thank you.

Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

Division of Plant Industry