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Reaction to bees in yards not warranted

Africanized honeybee queens such as the one at the center of the photo appear nearly identifical to queens of European ancestry. Most queen bees in northeastern Mexico are now Africanized.

Africanized honeybee queens such as the one at the center of the photo appear nearly identifical to queens of European ancestry. Most queen bees in northeastern Mexico are now Africanized.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Springtime finds beneficial honeybees swarming as a reproductive strategy to create more colonies. The behavior, while normal and uneventful in previous years, is now frightening people.

Area residents should not give in to fear of the flying pollinators who make great honey, said Dale Richter, master beekeeper.

Just because a bee, or two bees or even a swarm is buzzing around does not mean that they are the dangerous Africanized strain that can attack and kill.

"We have tested samples from more than 100 swarms or managed colonies," Richter said. "None of them had Africanized bees."

People have somehow gotten the idea that it is a fire department responsibility to take care of the bees on their property, said Jim Vaught, Albany-Dougherty Emergency Management Agency deputy director.

"We have been getting calls for firefighters to come out and exterminate the bees. We respond to emergencies," Vaught said.

"People shouldn't call us about seeing bees on their property any more than if they saw a snake."

However, since the Albany Fire Department and Richter have been asked by the state to sample bees for genetic testing, Richter would probably come out to take bees to test them to see if they are Africanized.

If they are honeybees, no extermination action should be taken, Vaught said. Honey bees are useful in pollinating flowers, crops and fruit trees.

What probably started the panic calls about the bees was the death of a Dougherty County man last October from an Africanized bee colony attack. It was the first time the bees had been seen in Georgia.

The Africanized bees look identical to the European honey bees -- the good bees. The Africanized bees are more likely to attack if they feel threatened.

According to a tip sheet from Vaught: The Africanized bees don't like fast movement, colored clothes or human breath. They don't like people in their area and react to vibrations from lawn mowers.

All bees tend to nest in empty, dry spaces such as sheds, discarded tires, hollow trees and walls and even underground. It is best to avoid those places.

Vaught recommends calling 911 only in true emergencies. If bees are a nuisance, a pest control company should be called for safe removal, not extermination, of the bees.

Richter runs a bee removal business as part of his licensed exterminator business. More information on bees is also available from the websites metroatlanticbeekeepers.org and ent.uga.edu.