An Aggressive Pest: Bees

Introduction to bees

Bees are often confused with wasps. Although closely related, they differ in many ways. Bees feed pollen and nectar to their young. They are beneficial insects that pollinate fruits, vegetables and many other plants.

When stung by a honey bee, scrape the bee's stinger out of the wound immediately. Be careful not to pull it out. If you do, you will force poison into the wound. If the stinger is not removed, the poison gland attached to the stinger will continue to pump poison into the wound for several minutes. Wasps and other bees do not leave a stinger and are capable of stinging many times.

At certain times of the year (spring and early summer), honey bee colonies divide by swarming. Swarms are not usually a problem unless they land in an inconvenient spot or enter a building. A honey bee colony in a building must be removed after it has been killed to prevent problems from odors of decaying bees, honey and other pests.

If a bee swarm is undesirable in trees, shrubbery or buildings, you may wish to contact a pest management company to remove or kill the bees. Insecticide dusts are effective for killing bee colonies in buildings. Dusts may be applied for effective control.

African Honey Bee

Honey bees from Africa were brought to Brazil in the 1950s. It was thought that genetic material from African bees, already adapted to tropical conditions, could be used to make the European bees already there better honey producers. Unfortunately, some of the introduced bees were released. They were so successful that a large wild population quickly developed. Over the next three decades, this wild population has spread throughout much of The Americas. It has several traits which are of importance to the beekeeper and general public.

The African honey bee defends (stings) its nest far more than does the European honey bee. It is thought to be more defensive because it has many biological competitors, including humans, in its native Africa, where only the most defensive honey bees can survive.

How will arrival of the African honey bee affect the public?

Experience in Latin America suggests that when the African honey bee arrives, there will be more bee-human contact. Florida's subtropical environment especially will be favorable to wild populations and the possible effects of publicized stinging incidents could affect agriculture and tourism in the state. Therefore, educating the public and the beekeeping industry will become a priority. This should also lead to a more informed public concerning the value of bees to agriculture.