I love gee whiz biology--that moment when you discover something amazing that you never knew existed.
Last week a friend in Miami called to tell me that a colony of honey bees had taken over a small storage unit in her garage. We've all heard how threatened honey bees are, and how dire the consequences to our food supply if we lose our best pollinators.
My friend has a grandson who is allegeric to beestings, so she started calling to find someone to remove the bees. At every turn she was told the bees would have to be destroyed. "They might be the africanized bees." (I've since checked this out and can find no government mandate requiring the destruction of bee colonies: No federal mandate, no Florida state mandate, nor in anything in Dade County, where she lives. However, that's what she was told.) She rightfully insisted that if they were Africanized bees, she'd probably be dead. (She opened the storage container, saw the swarm and slammed it shut. That would have been a call to arms for "killer" bees.)
According to my very reliable source, Africanized bees and the European honey bee (Apis mellifera
) are the same species. The difference is in disposition--a zone of tolerance for having their busy work disturbed. The European honey bees (our species is from Europe) have a high tolerance; Africanized have very little.
"They react to disturbances ten times faster than European
honey bees, and will chase a person a quarter of a mile."
However, my friend refused to take the destruction of the bees as an answer; she kept calling and finally found someone to move them to a new home. While he was setting up he told her about how hornets will invade a honey bee hive and wipe it out, biting the heads off the much smaller bees. (There is a YouTube video about everything, but the one I found wasn't very good.) But here's the gee whiz part, I found this video of how some honey bees protect themselves against this kind of invasion. It's totally cool. Enjoy.
When I was in Baja a few years ago there was a swarm of bees in the bushes on the trail to the camp bathrooms. It looked just like this. In addition, the only source of freshwater for the bees was the sink where we washed up in the morning and brushed our teeth. I was so proud of all of us. We shared the sinks with them, and tolerated each other, and I was lucky enough to see the moment when they suddenly departed.
This is a temporary swarm of bees
|A hornet. Note the thread-waist. |
Yellow jackets are a species of hornet