Africanized Bees Spotted in SW Arkansas
BRIGHTSTAR, Ark. Some unwanted arrivals from Texas have been spotted in this southwest Arkansas town. State Plant Board officials say the presence of Africanized honey bees has been confirmed in Brightstar, in southern Miller County.
The aggressive insects are popularly known as "killer bees" because they are more likely than other varieties to respond in large numbers to animals or people who disturb their colonies. The bees' venom is no more toxic than that of the European honeybee, but they are more dangerous because they attack in larger numbers.
The Africanized bees have been expected in Arkansas for several years, since they entered Texas from Mexico in the 1990s.
Swarms of the Africanized honey bees have been moving north since the accidental release of some bees in 1957 from a program in Brazil, where they were being bred to improve that country's domestic bees.
As of 1998, the bees had become established in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, state Plant Board inspector Ed Levi said at a 1999 meeting called to plan a response to the bees' expected arrival in Arkansas.
In August 2004, a work crew in the southwest Oklahoma community of Tipton was attacked by a swarm of Africanized bees.
Levi said Thursday that the presence of Africanized bees in Arkansas was confirmed when some were captured in small traps.
According to Levi, the bees originally got the nickname "killer bees" because it was first believed that they assassinated bees derived from European strains. But, he said, Africanized bees have worked their way north by mating with European-strain queen bees.
Several deaths have occurred when the Africanized bees swarmed over people in droves, but Levi said in 1998 that "the perception is worse than the reality." They "are not coming to get people," he said.
Levi warned Thursday that it's always wise to avoid arousing bees.
"Honeybees in general are very defensive," he said. "Some are more defensive than others.
"If somebody sees a colony of bees, they need to get away from it," he added. "If they get stung, they need to get away a little faster. If they're getting a lot of stings, they need to run to a place of safety."
But the best bet is simply avoidance.
"You just need to respect the space of bees," Levi said.
Source: Associated Press