Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Partially Africanized bees found in eastern Tennessee!

VONORE, Tennessee – Tennessee’s first case of partially Africanized bees was confirmed through genetic testing last week in a colony belonging to a beekeeper in Monroe County. The colony has been depopulated and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture is working with beekeepers in the area to determine if other bees could have been affected.

State Apiarist, Mike Studer, says it is no surprise that partially Africanized bees have made their way to Tennessee considering they have already been found in other states such as Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida. “I’m actually surprised it’s just now happening. We have been expecting this for some time,” Studer said. “Citizens need to be vigilant, but there’s no need to overreact. This is a situation that can be effectively managed through good beekeeping practices.

“We will be working with beekeepers to monitor their hives and to look for any signs of other aggressive bees in the area.”

Test results show that genetically, the bees were less than 17 percent Africanized, far less than the 50 percent considered by USDA to be truly Africanized. The bee colony was purchased by the beekeeper last year from an out-of-state dealer.

The most important difference between an Africanized honey bee and our domestic European honeybee is their behavior. Africanized bees are much more aggressive, defend their nests more fiercely and in greater numbers and are more likely to defend the nest when threatened by predators or adverse environmental conditions. But, the sting from a single Africanized bee is no more venomous than a European honey bee.

Africanized bees tend to colonize in smaller spaces than the docile European honeybee. Therefore, if you see honeybees in the ground, or in small openings such as flower pots or bluebird houses leave them alone and call the state apiarist immediately to assess the situation. Bees do not try to hurt people, they simply defend their territory.

If you do disturb an Africanized honeybee colony, follow these steps to protect yourself.
1. Run.
2. Cover your head with your shirt or jacket while running because Africanized bees tend to sting the face and head.
3. Never stand still or get boxed into a place outdoors where you cannot escape the attack.
4. Seek immediate shelter in an enclosed building or vehicle. Isolate yourself from the bees.
5. Do not attempt to rescue a victim without the proper protective gear and training. Doing so could make you the second victim.

State law requires all beekeepers register their colonies with the TDA and to update their registration every three years. Once registered, the state apiarist is able to contact beekeepers in the event of a disease outbreak or aerial pesticide spraying in their area. Registration also gives the beekeepers the opportunity for free inspections to make sure their colonies are healthy. Registration can be done online.

For more information on TDA’s Apiary Section or to register a bee colony,

*Photo by the USDA shows an Africanized honey bee on the left and a European honey bee on the right.


  1. Hi Mark for my best wishes from Greece!

  2. I think the northward movement of the Africanized European honey bees is inevitable. Hopefully they will be so hybridized that they will lose their aggressive tendancies and retain their superior honey production.

  3. Simply requeening the colony would fix the issue I think more fear then actual fact are behind the panic with africanized bees, pluse normal "docile" European bees can get very aggressive under the right conditions.

  4. Danielle: I think you're exactly right. The move of the AHB is headed to the north regardless of what measures beekeepers and other officials take to stop it. North Carolina has already had two reported cases of AHB landing here; one in the late 80s and another in the early 90s, and both hitched rides here on cargo ships to state ports. Both colonies were killed before they could escape, but how long will we be able to contain the movement? With so many people buying out of state colonies where the AHB is more prevalent, we're bound to hear of more cases.

    Sam: I've seen the worst side of Italian and Carniolan bees, haha! Try running a tractor next to their hives. Three hives chased me to the front side of my house. I've read in the forums that requeening seems to be the fix for "hot" colonies whether AHB is suspected or just a non-AHB queen with bad genetics. I read somewhere that a beekeeper bought quite a few Buckfast queens from a Texas apiary and within a couple of months had to requeen again because they all seemed to have AHB traits and he couldn't work them without getting stung. He requeened with Canadian Buckfast queens to avoid further chances of a southern AHB layer. He said it worked great. I think he used to AHB queens as swarm lure.

  5. Congratulations to Mark Lord for your love to the bee and the valuable information on the races of bees



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