AHB get a bad rap, causing more bee exterminations and misinformation to public.
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It may be of value to address the case of mistaken identity regarding Africanized honey bees (AHB) in relation to bee removal in which the Africanized honey bee gets a bad rap. Bee removal generally refers to the process of removing honeybees from a location in which the bees are unwanted such as the wall, attic, or chimney of a home. Having to deal with an unwanted beehive may happen only once or twice in a lifetime. Perhaps due to a decline in beekeepers, the average person knows very little about honeybees and their behavior. When a person notices a beehive move onto their property they often attempt to handle it themselves and treat it like a wasp problem trying to kill the bees or harass them in hopes that they leave.
If the homeowner is persistent in their efforts, after many attempts to kill or chase off the bees it tends to condition the bees to be more aggressive or protective against what they see as an attacker or intruder. After some frustration on the homeowner’s part, and in a case like this when a bee guy is finally called to remove or relocate them, or an exterminator is called to kill them and remove the hive. In such cases upon inspection from a bee guy, the bees immediately attack by doing so they are assumed to be Africanized. Perhaps in some cases, the bee guy or pest control technician is told up front that the bees are really mean. What the bee guy fails to realize is that in this case, this is not the true nature of the bees. Even with a year of experience as a bee remover, I don’t think this is something that’s easily recognized, consequently it would tend to give the bee exterminator perhaps a slightly inaccurate view of the bees behavior. The more a bee guy works with bees in relocating or keeping bees, the more they begin to understand how to interact with them. For example; when you first approach a beehive and open up the hive or messing with it, the bees will show some aggression toward you perhaps 95% of the time. However after 5 minutes or less, an experienced keeper will likely be able to take off his or her suit or head mask. As the bees realize you are not there to harm them allowing you to work freely with them. This is never recommended nor to be tried by a novice/ beginner, especially were Africanized bees exist. To a bee exterminator, the majority of the bee colonies they approach will appear aggressive. This is because in the first five minutes the exterminator will be trying to kill the bees and never see what it’s like to interact with them in perhaps a constructive way. Rescuing and relocating bees as opposed to exterminating bees takes more time but it also can be a great experience. Of course if you are not experienced with bees it’s not a good idea try removing them, and especially if there are people or animals nearby.
There appear to be good reasons for people to stretch the truth about their bee problem. In some cases they feel guilty for trying to kill the bees, or they might not want to be judged as breaking some law with the talk of CCD /the dwindling bee population. In addition perhaps the media or other people are involved which influences what they feel comfortable saying. At the end of it all, the people that have become involved in a case are left with an inaccurate understanding about “Africanized Bees” that were not actually Africanized bees.
Not to implying that Africanized bees don’t exist or that Africanized bees don’t defend their hives more aggressively, or even that Africanized bees are bad, only that there are often misunderstandings. Unfortunately this can give the bee man or pest control technician the view that there are more Africanized or naturally aggressive bees that exist in reality.
In the case of mistaken identity of honey bees, I believe a more common scenario is perhaps profit driven. A homeowner calls a bee man to get rid of the bee problem, when the guy arrives he tells the homeowner that the bees are Africanized killer bees and they have to have them removed and killed right away, and in addition the bee removal price is very high because the bees are Africanized. But no worry, they are the killer bee experts, trained and certified to solve your problem and keep you safe. Unfortunately this can be more common than one might think, for the most part it tends to be a pressure sale that generally works great, it also makes the bee guy feel better about killing the bees and after repeating it enough causes the bee guy to actually believe it, in addition it makes the homeowner feel a little better about having to kill the bees. The end result is that people talk about their expensive Africanized bee problem that the bee guy killed; when most likely the exterminated beehive was not Africanized and could have been removed humanly and often at less cost.
Among other cases of mistaken identity of the AHB, I believe these two instances cause the most misinformation about the AHB, but when combined with media coverage, it tends to spin it once more out of actual reality.
In the US a great effort is taken in informing the public when Africanized bees move into a new County or State; also in developing guidelines and recommendations for preparing for and absorbing the AHB. This would also appear to remove the State or County from liability in case of a honey bee sting occurrence, perhaps the fear of AHB has been overly propagated.
What can you do? As a bee guy or bee killer, visit with a beekeeper and spend some time working with bees. As a consumer in need of bee removal, look for a competent bee guy that does live removal of the bees and honey comb as to an exterminator. Would I recommend large pest control companies to do live bee removal? No, that’s not really their scope of work, I think it would very difficult to implement live bee removal into their organization; however we welcome working with them in a way that can mutually benefit them in providing the service their customers should expect.
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