Africanized Honey Bee
In Mesa County
A single honey bee hive from a Palisade area fruit farm tested positive for Africanized genetics in April 2014. The bees were displaying abnormally aggressive behavior, which prompted the owner to bring in a sample for testing. The hive in question was destroyed after the positive diagnosis.
Africanized honey bees (AHB) are not thought to have good winter hardiness, but these bees survived the unusually harsh winter of 2013/2014 in the Grand Valley. We do not know if this is an isolated incident, or if there are other instances of Africanized honey bee establishment.
The source of the Africanized genetics is not totally clear. The hive in question had been requeened in the past two years with a queen purchased from a business in an AHB infested area, but there were several hives in the area that had been used for almond pollination in California, which could also be a source of AHB genetics.
Africanized honey bees are nearly identical to the European honey bee (EHB) that was brought to North America by early settlers. It takes microscopic measurements on several characteristics, on multiple specimens, followed by a statistical analysis to differentiate AHB from EHB. Details of this process, called FABIS are available here.
Africanized bees are well known and much has been written about them in areas where they are established. Here are links to some excellent sites on their history, biology, behavior and management:
Africanized honey bees can be a threat to humans and animals when they are present in large numbers, such as when near a hive, colony, or swarm. It is the threat of multiple stings, not a more potent venom than our common European honey bee. People vary considerably in their response to bee and wasp stings. If you have any cause for concern regarding any insect sting, you should seek medical help immediately.
Colorado State University is in the process of setting up a diagnostic lab for testing honey bees for Africanized genetics. The test will require a minimum of 20 worker bees collected from a single colony. It is important to label the sample so it can be referred back to a specific colony, hive or swarm. Bees should be stored in a freezer once collected, then mailed in a crush-proof container with enough padding to protect the specimens from damage in transit. A submission form is available below. There will be a $25/sample fee.