INTRODUCTION. Honey bees get their common name from the sweet yellowish to brown¬ish fluid they make from the nectar of flowers and use as food. Honey bees not only provide honey and wax, but as pollinators are of far greater importance. They are also responsible for a large share of insect stings, although many stings blamed on "bees" are actually done by yellowjackets. Honey bees are worldwide in distribution. The 2 most commonly encountered kinds/strains of honey bees in the United States are the common and rather docile European honey bee (EHB) and the much more aggressive Africianized honey bee (AHB). The EHB is found throughout most of the United States. The AHB invaded the United States from Mexico in 1990, and by 1/2007 was established in southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, west¬ern Louisiana, southern Arkansas, and central and southern Florida.
RECOGNITION. Adult worker’s body length about 1/2-5/8" (11-15 mm). Color usually orangish brown to sometimes black, gaster (enlarged rear portion of abdomen) broadly banded with orange and brown or brown and black; with body mostly covered with branched, pale hairs, most dense on thorax. Eyes hairy. First segment of hind tarsus enlarged, flattened. In addition, hind tibiae lack apical spurs; front wing venation with marginal cell narrow, parallel-sided, and 3rd submarginal cell oblique; hind wings with jugal lobe (lobe on rear margin near body). Barbed stinger present. Queens slightly larger, about 5/8-3/4" (15-20 mm) long, pointed abdomen extends well beyond wing tips, with smooth stinger. Males or drones robust, about 5/8" (15-17 mm) long, stinger absent.
Africanized honey bees look just like our “domestic” bees except for being slightly smaller. A specialist is required to identify specimens by genetics or measurements.
BIOLOGY. Honey bees are social insects and live as colonies in hives, with mature colonies of 20,000-80,000 individuals. Adults are represented by workers which are infertile females, a queen or inseminated female, and drones (males) which come from unfertilized eggs.
The entire population overwinters. There is only one egg-laying queen in the hive and she mates only once. She can lay as many as 1,500 to 2,000 eggs per day, and may live as long as 5 years. The queen produces many pheromones, mostly from her mandibular glands, which regulate among other things the production of new queens and inhibit development of worker ovaries. The young workers care for the young or brood, build the comb, provide hive ventilation, and guard the hive entrance. Older workers serve as foragers to gather pollen, nectar, and propolis or bee glue. Workers live only about 5 to 7 weeks during the summer but those emerging in the autumn, over winter. Drones (males) appear periodically and are short lived, usually living only a few weeks.
Honey bees swarm primarily when the colony size gets too large for the available hive space or the queen begins to wane or fail. New queens are produced and the old queen leaves with a large number of workers. Our common European honey bee colony usually swarms only once each 12 months. Africianized honey bees swarm as often as once every 6 weeks and can produce 2 swarms each time.
HABITS. Honey bees are not aggressive, and do not search for something to attack. Instead, they are defensive and will attack only whatever seems to threaten the colony. Swarms first move to a temporary site such as a tree branch. The swarm will usually remain here for about 24-48 hours until permanent quarters are located, and then moves on. Permanent quarters may consist of a bee hive, hollow tree, hollow wall, attic, etc., typically some place which is sheltered from the weather.
Bees in a swarm are very docile and not likely to sting because they harbor no food stores or young and therefore, have nothing to defend. Likewise, honey bees encountered away from the hive are unlikely to sting unless severely provoked, like stepping on them. However, if the hive entrance is approached, the guard bees can become very aggressive; do not approach hives without proper protection. Worker bees have barbed stingers and when used, the stinger, poison sac, and associated tissue are torn from the body. If the stinger is not removed immediately, muscle contractions will drive the stinger deeper and deeper into the skin and there is greater time for toxin injection. In addition, the stinger gives off a pheromone which attracts other bees and induces an alarm and attack behavior. Therefore, immediate removal with a fingernail or knife blade is recommended; squeezing only forces more venom in. The AHB will pursue the intruder/victim for up to 328 ft (100 m) whereas, the EHB will pursue for only about 33 ft (10 m).
CONTROL. For walls, first locate the entrance/exit(s) being used. Next, the colony’s nest should be located because the nest can be far enough away from the entrance that entryway- applied insecticides will not reach the bees. The nest can best be located at night by tapping on the walls in the area of buzzing and listening for the loudest sound. Also, honey bees keep the center of their nest at about 95°F (35°C) which will warm the wall enough such that it can often be detected with one’s hand. Seal the application hole immediately after insecticide introduction. For attics, direct application is required. The next day the dead bees, comb, and honey must be removed or else as the wax deteriorates, there will be a strong honey and dead bee odor, the honey will often seep through the plaster walls, and/or this debris will attract other insects and mice.
Please call us today for a free estimitate for the removal and or treatment of these honey bees.