‘Killer Bees’ Head North
‘Killer Bees’ Head North
Scientists from the University of California San Diego recently collected hundreds of bees throughout the western state in order to determine how far north Africanized bees have begun to spread.
Known to science as hybrids as they possess genes from both European and African honeybees, the insects commonly referred to as “killer bees” have been found as far north as California’s delta region (about 25 miles south of Sacramento). Researchers in southern California have discovered that about 65% of the honeybees buzzing around San Diego County have a mix of European and African genes.
While Africanized bees have taken up residence throughout the American South, Southwest, Southeast and Western coastal regions, their ability to set up permanent colonies in the northern parts of the country appears to be limited by cold temperatures brought on during the winter months, according to Joshua Kohn, a professor of biology at UC San Diego and co-author of the new study. He and other scientists are concerned that higher temperatures caused by climate changes could mean that killer bees may continue to push north in the coming years.
Why Does ‘Killer Bee’ Migration Matter?
These bees are highly aggressive as a result of the amount of predators they face in their native African habitats. People in California, Arizona and Texas (as well as several other states) have been seriously injured or killed after enduring thousands of stings from Africanized bees defending their hives. Khon adds, “Knowing where those hives might be is a good starting point for preventing future attacks.”
Still, scientists don’t want to track the migration of Africanized bees simply for their ‘killer’ instincts. Kohn and Yoshiaki Kono, a graduate student in UC San Diego’s Department of Biological Sciences and lead author of the new bee study, are also curious about the spread of the bees’ more desirable qualities. Their resistance to some of the diseases and mites are killing off honey bees in other parts of the country, supposedly enhancing abilities to generate honey.
Africanized bees originated in Africa and were brought to Latin America by researchers who believed the climates were similar enough for the bees to survive and produce honey. Instead, they continued to migrate farther north due to the subtropical-like temperatures that occupy much of Arizona and Texas during the summer months.
What are your thoughts? Is this new information alarming or is it a sign that the bees might survive after all? Is it adaption or further signs of the effects of global warmingc? Join in the conversation! Comment below, share on Facebook, and find us on Twitter, hashtag #DMTalk.