I think one should expect that much like the case of nosema c. that in all likely hood the little nasties have been there at least 5-10 years when they are finally discovered.
living here on the edge of the best territory in the US for africanized bee I will tell you not all is lost and there are numerous things you can do to minimize the problem. a significant portion of the problem over the near horizon will be public relations in nature. which is to say... a lot of folks that use to be just happy as punch to have you set bees down on their place will now be so fearful that they will not even allow for a hive on their neighbors property (if you know what I mean?).
I'd like to see the comb from the hive... it sounds like the hive was in the ground so it's likely only an AHB hive would have ever occupied it so if it's got old comb that would confirm at least in my mind that they survived at least one winter there... but if the comb is new, then I'm not going to worry too much about this. I learned first-hand how far swarms can get carried... I got one call from a truck-stop that had a swarm that had landed on a truck and got carried north all the way from FL... but that doesn't mean they could survive here.
actually bens-bees the arrival of afb doesn't eliminate the possibilities of open mating queens. some specific strategies counter to the africanized bee helps... like employing stimulative feeding and rearing queen early. another thing that I think helps greatly (but sadly you are likely to have little control over) is the sheer number of migratory beehives that may be around.
the comb would have likely told you little since in many location any dead nest site will soon become reoccupied during the first prime swarm season. if the comb is significant enough often times it may tell you of the occupation back and forth between european and africanized honeybees.
This is when you will need to put your best public relations skills to work. At least that article seemed to be knowledgeably written, not overly sensationalized. You will be asked numerous times about AHB and need to have good solid answers regarding how your hives are managed and regularly inspected. That all feral hives should be treated with respect and you would be happy to check them out for them if they are concerned over one. That it is the ones that choose an odd nesting area, especially in the ground to be suspect over. The odds are better that they will be bitten by a poisonous snake than attacked by AHB's.
As Jerry Hay's say's what we as beekeepers have to prevent is politically motivated knee jerk laws from being passed.
Open air breeding is still done here, I have had one hive checked for AHB and it came back negative. By the time I got the result's back, a new queen had started calming them down, just a mean streak in the old queen.
I guess I misread or was mislead by Google maps, anyway Dougherty County is almost to the Fla state line as can be seen in the map (lower left hand corner). Much much further south than I thought. Here is a link to the GA Beekeepers Assoc. web site, pretty nice site.
Ben you were right that it was not a Lang hive turned upside down, here is part of the reply I received back.............
"The colony was actually in a decagon shaped porch column that was lying on the ground, among other debris in a dump site on his personal property. The picture shows the inside of the column after I turned it over to expose to bees so I could eliminate the colony. The broken strips of the column may account for the perception of frames, etc as in a regular man-made hive.
I have a "before" picture of the column as it was originally lying on the ground, but I am unable to retrieve that picture from my files. If you would like a copy of that photo, I will ask my son to send you a copy from his computer. These pictures were taken with a topographical GPS camera, without my glasses on, so the quality is not very good. However, you may be able to see the column in both forms."
He also said he will be in the Knoxville area in November and I invited him the KCBA meeting if he could make it.
Ben here is you a better pic of the bees and the comb
This was the column as Mr. Richter found it when he arrived
another view of the same
the column after it was turned over showing the hive after it was killed
another view of the same, notice how close the loader bucket is to the bees.
Mr. Richter said that there was a 3 to 4 pound clump of bees on the cab of the loader and he took 25 stings to the head himself.
Thanks for the follow up on my 'random' question G3 and thanks for following up on the story. The pictures add a lot of detail.
The bucket I suspect hid the bees from the operator until it was way too late.
For the 'local' beekeepers you need to prepare yourself if you have any out yards on property that does not belong to you. You should expect a flurry of question from land owners. How you answer those question may have a direct bearing on whether you spend the next month or so moving yards. Obviously finding some other locations will present problems also.