Invasive Species

3 weeks ago
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In 1956 Brazilian scientist Warwick Estevam Kerr attempted to create a breed of honey bee that would produce more honey in tropical climates by cross breeding a common European honeybee with the East African lowland honey bee.

European honey bees, like the common Italian honey bee, have been cultivated by European bee keepers for centuries. The result is a breed of bee that is largely docile, even when beekeepers are disturbing their hives. They are good producers of honey and are capable of surviving European winters by producing excess honey stores that will sustain them until flowers begin to bloom again in the spring.

African bees, however, were never domesticated for lack of a better term because native Africans never developed apiculture, or bee keeping. When Africans would harvest honey they would often destroy a feral beehive rather than keep domestic hives so the African bees were never bred for temperament or honey production. The African bee, compared to the European bees is a poor producer of honey but also very aggressive. They protect their hives with more guard bees and have a wider attack radius around their hive. They also attack with swarms several times as large as European bees and continue to attack for longer distances.

Kerr hoped by breeding the European bees which were ill suited for the tropical climate of Brazil with the African bees he could increase honey production and have a bee that would withstand the local conditions. The result was the africanized honey bee or what is commonly known as the killer bee.

In many ways Kerr achieved what he set out to do. This genetically engineered bee did survive better in tropical climates and it also produced more honey than the European bee. It was almost as if he got the best of both worlds. But as everyone knows and is willing to openly admit about every animal from bees to different dog breeds, anything on earth as long as you arent talking about humans, temperament is also genetic.

These new bees didn’t just attack intruders with 3 to 4 times the amount of bees of their European relatives, but rather 10 times. They also had even more guard bees than their African relatives and an even wider attack radius. This new unnatural breed of bee chases it’s victims for up to a mile and will often sting a threat until and even after it is dead.

To make matters worse, killer bees are even hostile to other bees. They swarm to create new hives over twice as often and invade existing bee colonies and take them over.

In 1957 26 swarms of killer bees escaped captivity. The official story, which seems a little weak to me, is that some unnamed visiting scientist unwittingly removed the screens on the beehives that prevented the larger drones and queens from being able to get out of the hives. With the screens gone and apparently all the scientists completely asleep at the wheel, the killer bees formed 26 swarms and left to create new colonies in the wild. The story is flimsy and makes Jurassic Park seem kind of realistic. Kerr just wanted to know if he could produce this new honey bee but never stopped to ask if he should and now 60 years later killer bees have saturated most of south america, all of central america and mexico and have spread throughout the southern half of the United States.

And by spread, I don’t mean killer bees living hand in hand next door to the happy European bees. You see, once again we see an example in the animal kingdom where scientists all nod their heads in agreement. Of course multiculturalism doesn’t work with bees, didn’t you know, that’s also something that only humans can do successfully.

In fact, killer bees don’t just out-breed European bees but they take over European hives by sneaking past the more docile trusting European guard bees, killing the queen and then installing their own. The European bees will continue to work day and night and support the new queen and her children until they eventually they die off and the hive built by the European bees is occupied entirely by the invaders and their brood. This is so common that many areas have no trace at all of the native bee population. The killer bees have been successfully conquering territory at a rate of about 1 mile per day.

One of the few things slowing the africanized bees brutal march northward is one of the traits they inherited from their African ancestors. They don’t make adequate preparations that would allow them to survive longer winters. They don’t store enough honey when the weather is good and the flowers are blooming and as a result they run out of honey in the winter and die.

So why am I talking about killer bees? Well I assure you there is absolutely nothing to learn metaphorically from all of this. Nothing at all. I simply found myself in a position where I had to do some research on bees.

As many of you know I’m in the process of moving out to my homestead or as I sometimes call it my bunker. After a storm knocked over some trees I went to go saw them up when I heard some buzzing sounds and discovered that bees were living inside my roof. Unfortunately they turned out to be africanized, which meant there was only one thing I could do.

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