Sunday, September 13, 2015

Swarms of Killer Honeybees Continue March Across California

The Africanized honey bee is a hybrid created by crossbreeding in Brazil; the subspecies began its journey north when 26 bee swarms escaped from quarantine in 1957.

A strain of aggressive honeybee is continuing its expansion across California, and the foraging bees have made it as far as California's northern delta region, where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers meet, according to a study from biologists at the University of San Diego.

Bees with Africanized genetic traits, which exhibit aggressive behavior and a tendency to swarm their victims, can be found just 40 kilometers south of Sacramento. Most of them belong to feral colonies rather than managed hives, say the researchers, who examined the genetic markers of 265 honey bees they collected at 91 sites throughout the state.

The venom of Africanized honey bees is no more toxic than their European relatives, but their propensity to attack has earned them their aggressive reputation. While a victim may receive 12 to 20 stings after disturbing a European bee colony, if an Africanized colony is disturbed, the killer bees could give the victim hundreds or even thousands of stings.

"The pattern of Africanization we documented in San Diego County and elsewhere in California appears consistent with patterns previously documented in Texas, where Africanized honey bees first appeared in the United States. After the initial wave of hybridization, the remaining bees have a mixture of African and European genes, with the majority of the genome from Africa," explained Joshua Kohn, a professor of biology at UC San Diego and lead author of the study..............

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