Beehive doesn’t behave

Africanized type found in valley, acts aggressively

A beehive in Palisade has been confirmed to contain the state’s first report of Africanized bees.

Local officials in the beekeeping community have suspected that Africanized bees were in the Grand Valley since last fall, but believed the hybrid bees couldn’t survive the area’s winter temperatures.

A beekeeper, who is not being identified, became alarmed when bees in one his hives were acting aggressively when he attempted to work with it. The bees were confirmed by a lab to have genetics of Africanized bees, and the hive has been destroyed, said Bob Hammon, area extension agent at the Tri-River Area Extension.

“The bottom line is, the only thing that’s changed with the bee population is we’re aware of them now,” Hammon said. “We had them last fall. We’re not being invaded by — dare I use the word — killer bees.”

Hammon said he was suspicious that the roughly 15 bees that were brought in to the extension office by the local beekeeper could have the genetics of Africanized bees. After sending the bees to a Colorado State University lab in Fort Collins, it was confirmed.

Palisade’s case marks the farthest north that Africanized bees have been reported, and the case is the first in Colorado, Hammon said.

“I’ll admit I was skeptical,” he said. “I was stunned when it came back positive.”

Africanized bees are more aggressive around hives and can overrun other bee populations.

Bees tend to be docile when they swarm, but Africanized bees can act aggressively if someone comes close to their swarm or hive. Venom from Africanized bees is no more dangerous than venom from other types of bees. However Africanized bees are more aggressive and can sting en masse. Africanized bees also make honey, but they are not as efficient as honeybees.

“They give themselves away by their aggressive nature,” Hammon said.

Hammon said the Palisade beekeeper became alarmed when his usual protective gear for beekeeping was not working on the Africanized bee hive.

Hammon said beekeepers must be extra-diligent in ensuring the genetics of their hives and not buying hives from areas that have Africanized bees.

Hammon said he’s not convinced this is the only Grand Valley hive or hive in Colorado that contains Africanized bees. Extension agents with Colorado State University are working to uncover the extent of Africanized bees in the Grand Valley, by setting up a lab for testing.

In contrast, Hammon said he’s encouraged to see an abundance of species of native bees in the Grand Valley, and “there’s still no excuse for killing bees,” he said.

“I don’t have any concerns about bees that are out foraging on flowers,” Hammon said.

For more information, contact the Tri-River extension agency, 244-1834 or visit wci.colostate.edu.


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