LivingTravelAre there killer bees in Austin?

Are there killer bees in Austin?

It sounds like a plot out of a B-movie (pun blatantly intended), but South American scientists actually raised European bees with African bees with the seemingly harmless goal of producing bees that could produce more honey. Hybrids were indeed good at producing honey, but they were even better at protecting their hives. The aggressive bees escaped from a laboratory in 1957 and slowly spread north before reaching Texas in 1990.

The march north

As they moved north, they continued to breed with other bees, and some of them have softened a bit. However, the aggressive trait still survives in some hives. One of the most horrific attacks occurred in June 2013 in Moody, 80 miles north of Austin, when a man on his tractor was killed after being stung up to 3,000 times.

Although no fatal attacks have been reported within Austin city limits, a man in Pflugerville, just north of Austin, was hospitalized in August 2012 after stumbling upon a swarm of more than 100,000 bees in a warehouse. The man was attacked while trying to move a cabinet with a hidden hive inside.

What to do if you are attacked

Experts from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service say that if you are attacked, you should cover your face with your hands and stay as far away from the hive as possible. Bees consider any area within 400 yards of the hive their home territory, which they must protect. Their next priority is to remove the stingers because they can continue to inject venom for several minutes, even after the bee is gone.

If you come across a swarm of bees, you can probably avoid them. Bees generally only swarm when they are in the process of moving to a new home, so they will most likely move in soon to continue their home search. Just make sure you haven’t provided them with a cozy space to live in, like a large tree cavity. Africanized bees are not as particular as standard bees when selecting a place to call home. Sometimes they even nest close to the ground, in water meters, storage buildings, and abandoned boats.

They sometimes invade attics if the pipes and vents leading to the attic are not properly sealed. They can even congregate in fireplaces or in any medium-sized cavity you can find outside your home.

Also, be aware of the stimuli that cause the bees to attack. Their aggressive attack mode can be triggered by loud noises (car engine racing, children’s screams, dog barking), vibrations (lawnmower, weedeater, heavy bass stereo), and rapid movements (excited dogs running in circles, children chasing each other).

In the summer of 2018, Austin experienced a sudden spike in Africanized bee attacks. There were 14 bee emergencies in the span of just two months. Some of the larger colonies had developed on the walls of abandoned or neglected buildings. One particularly disturbing report showed honey leaking from an electrical outlet inside a home. The city had just experienced a major heat wave with more than a dozen days in a row over 100 degrees. However, experts have not yet discovered what may have been the cause of the increase in attacks.

There is no question that humans are more grumpy about the heat, so maybe it is affecting bees as well.

Save the bees!

However, before declaring war on all bees, and indiscriminately exploiting them with pesticides, remember that humans need them. Bees play a vital role in the pollination of plants. If you don’t think you are bothered by some less pollinating plants, consider this: Without bees, it would be nearly impossible to grow most vegetables, nuts, and fruits. In some highly polluted areas of China where bees have been decimated, thousands of people have to manually pollinate pear trees, flower by flower.

Bee colonies around the world have also been victims of colony collapse disorder, in which bees leave a colony and simply never return. The cause is unknown, but it is affecting beekeepers and farmers around the world. After reaching a crisis point in 2008, the EPA reports that colony collapse disorder cases appear to be declining. However, we need millions of bees to keep our food supply healthy. So please don’t kill the bees if you don’t have to.


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