Thursday, 1 October 2015

Buzz kill: Killer bees invade San Francisco for first time

OCTOBER 1, 2015

by Chuck Bednar

An Africanized type of honeybees referred to as “killer bees” has been spotted in the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time, as researchers from the University of California-San Diego have reported spotting the insects near Briones Regional Park in the city of Lafayette.

According to CBS News and the San Francisco Chronicle, killer bees had only previously been observed as far north as Mariposa County in the more inland Central Valley area, but the insects may have been attracted to the Bay Area because of warming temperatures in the region.

It is unclear how many of the bees, which earned their nickname because of their tendency to swarm and become aggressive when their colony is threatened, have found their way to the San Francisco region. However, the UCSD team believes it is likely that there are multiple colonies of the honeybees, which are hybrids of the European bee and the African bee.

“The sampling is a little sparse up north,” Joshua Kohn, a professor of biology at UC San Diego, told the Chronicle. “Normally honeybees forage within about a mile of their hive, though they can go up to about five miles. There is no way we found a member of the only Africanized bee colony in that region.”

Killer bees have a bad rep
Africanized honeybees can sting en masse when they sense a threat – which they can do from up to 50 feet away from their nests, according to a University of California fact sheet. The bees will pursue targets for at least one quarter of a mile, and although they could pose a threat to humans, Kohn said that San Francisco residents should not be overly concerned.

“An Africanized honeybee out foraging on flowers is no more aggressive than your average European honeybee,” Kohn told the newspaper. “Nor is the sting of an individual any different. It’s only when a hive is disturbed that the level of aggression from Africanized bees is elevated,” he added. In these cases, the bees tend to attack in greater numbers than their relatives.

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