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AHB gets a bad rap, causing more bee exterminations.

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The Case of Mistaken Identity

It may be of value to address the case of mistaken identity regarding Africanized honey bees (AHB) in relation to bee removal.  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, their behaviour, and how to remove them. As such, when a beehive is found the property people often attempt to handle it themselves and treat it like a wasp problem

If the home-owner is persistent in their efforts to, get rid of the bees, after many attempts this can condition the bees to be more aggressive or protective when they see the attacker or intruder approaching. When a bee guy is finally called to relocate them or an exterminator is called to kill them, often the bees will immediately try to attack as they are now conditioned, by doing so they are often assumed to be feral or Africanized. Consequently this tends to give the bee exterminator an inaccurate perception of the bees behavior.

The more one works with bees in relocating or keeping bees, the more one begins 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 aggression toward you perhaps 90% of the time. However after a few minutes an experienced keeper will likely be able to take off their suit or head mask. As the bees realize you are not there to harm them allowing you to work freely with them. (Not recommended nor to be tried by a novice/ beginner), especially were aggressive bees may exist.

Except for new swarms, to a bee exterminator, nearly all 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 and environmentally a better choice. 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.

When occasion arises, there may be good reasons why people 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. In addition perhaps the media or other people are involved which can influence 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.
This can give the bee guy or exterminator the view that there are more Africanized or naturally aggressive bees that exist in reality.

Bee guy misinformed

In the case of mistaken identity of honey bees, a more common scenario can be profit driven. Home owner calls a bee guy to get rid of the bee problem, on arrival, the home owner is told 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. This is a type of 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, for the most part it nice to see the problem getting taken care of. The end result is that people talk about their expensive Africanized bee problem; 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. Doing that could also appear to remove the State or County from liability in case of a honey bee sting occurrence, perhaps the fear Africanized Honey Bee AHB has been overly hyped.

What can be done? As a bee guy or bee exterminator, 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 relocates the bees and removes honey comb.

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