The A-list for bees

An operation called “Killer Bees Honey” invites questions, most of them connected to that first word:

Like most Americans in our diverse nation, Killer Bee ancestry traces back to other continents.

In 1956, Brazilian beekeepers, faced with low honey productivity, imported African honeybee queens to breed with their own Old World bees. Apis mellifera scutellata, or just scutellata (Killer Bees), were the progeny. This cross-bred honeybee was a highly productive, albeit petulant, subspecies.

Underwhelmed with their new digs and despite stern warnings from their human handlers, rebellious scutellata escaped from “managed” labs and established large, self-sustaining feral populations throughout South America. Soon, scientists discovered that the Killer Bee queens reproduced at up to five times the rate of European queens. Plus, the local virgin European queens preferred scutellata males.

Never mind that. Are these really Killers?

Invariably, I’m asked if we really have Killer Bees. My answer: Yes and no. Recent analysis of honeybee mitochondrial DNA reveals that most bees in America possess a small percentage of scutellata genetics. My apiary’s Old World bees are mostly Italian and Carniolan. But when I’m stung, I see and feel the scutellata in them.

Fair enough. “Killer,” after all, is more noun than adjective, or so it seems to me.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

1 comment

  1. fillyjonk »

    6 December 2016 · 10:14 am

    Interesting. And yes, I use the “killer bee” story as an example of “be careful what species you import, kids” in my ecology class.

    (I was terrified of bees as a child so the “killer bees marching northward” news in the 1970s made a big impression on me).

    Though the genetic thing is new to me. (But not all that surprising.)

    (I also once had an African student complain: “But why is everything imported here that is bad seemingly come from AFRICA?” I wanted to make a joke about Australia being too far away but I wasn’t sure if it was the place)

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