Handling Africanized Bees

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by jlabaume, Dec 9, 2011.

  1. jlabaume

    jlabaume New Member

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    Hi: First some background: My experience is very limited. I used to keep bees back in the early 80s but had to move across the country and never got a chance to bring off even one honey crop. So, please keep that in mind...

    I retired recently and decided to get back into beekeeping. I ordered the "starter kit" and an extra hive from Dadant. I have them assembled and plan to buy package bees this Spring.

    Now flash back a couple (maybe 3) years. I had a neighbor that had a couple of hives. He asked if he could place them on my property in one of my pastures. I, of course, agreed. A year or more ago, the neighbor moved away, abondened the hives and I have since lost contact with him.

    Yesterday, I decided to take a look in the hives. So, I put on my little "beginner's" veil and gloves. And cranked up the brand new smoker. The first hive I opened seemed to be fine. I put a top feeder on it, filled it with syrup and closed it up.

    The second hive was another story altogether. I smoked the entrance (or at least I thought I did) but by the time I got the top off and before I could smoke it again, there were literally thousands (or at least that is what it felt like) of very angry bees swarming around my head. I tried to be calm but they begin to sting me--I had on a denim shirt and trousers, the veil and the gloves. They stung me through the veil--I headed for the nearest building (about 30 yards away) and arrived there with thousands of bees swarming around and stinging me. After I entered and exited the building three or four times, I finally got the numbers down to a manageable level. I was stung at least 30, perhaps as many as 40 times--they stung me through the veil and through my clothing. I had an alergic reaction but it was nothing so seveer that a couple of Benedryl did not cure. But, needless to say, it was a pretty disconcerting experience.

    Now here are a couple of more pertinent points:

    At least a part of my problem might have been due to equipment failure and/or improper use. The smoker fuel that came with the kit was peleted sawdust. I had a hard time getting it started and getting it to keep burning. There is a distinct possibiltity that the smoker died before I got to that second hive. Also, as I said above, the veil was one of thos little "starter" things and I could have been wearing it improperly.

    In addition, I live very close to the Mexican border in far south west Texas. There is a distinct possibility that these bees have been "Africanized."

    My dilema is that I do not know what to do with that hive. If it is, indeed, Africanized, I do not want it to cross breed with my package bees that I plan on installing in the spring.

    What should I do? Destroy the bees and try to salvage the equipment? Get a better "bee suit" and be dead certain that the smoker is smoking and try it again?

    There is another option: I have a ranch located about 80 miles from where I live that has a colony (or more) of wild bees. Perhaps I could sneak up on this hive in the middle of the night, block the exit, tape and band it up, load it and haul it to the ranch and let it live with the wild bunch? That would at least keep them from contaminating my new bees.

    As I sit her and scratch the large welts on my neck, ears, arms and shoulders, I will be grateful for any advise. Thanks.

    jtl
     
  2. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Tecumseh can give you the details on testing areas of Texas, but have them checked for Africanization. If positive, kill them. It is too late in the year to requeen them. If negative, protect yourself and check for queenlessness. A good smoking should help either way.

    I would not keep them at home or on the ranch if they test out to be AHB. You are only endangering others, as they will swarm and spread throughout the area.

    Welcome to the forum.
     

  3. gunsmith

    gunsmith New Member

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    Welcome to the forum, you've come to the right place to learn about beekeeping.
    Protective clothing should be loose, anywhere it's touching the skin, the bees can usually sting through it.
    Go to youtube.com and type in bee smoker. There are a bunch of videos on using a smoker.
     
  4. jlabaume

    jlabaume New Member

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    Thanks a bunch guys. Good advise. Any suggestion on the "proper" way to kill them (if they do prove to be Africanized)?

    jtl
     
  5. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Depends on the weather. If cold, disassemble the hive and scatter the frames at dusk.

    If warm, a handful of sulfur in the smoker will work quickly.

    Others may have better ways.
     
  6. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

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    Welcome to the forum glad to have you here there is a lot of knowlege on board here. Sorry to hear about the sting fest that makes me hurt just hearing it has we have all been there. If you find yourself in this position again and you will sooner or later. If able walk through the brush or a bush and out the other side I have even zig zagged through a hedge row. it will slow the bees down and you can get away. thats the best way I have found to get out of a situation like that.
     
  7. jlabaume

    jlabaume New Member

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    Great idea about the brush. As a matter of fact, these two hives are up inside a fairly dense brush (mesquite) thickett. Regardless of what ultimately becomes of them, I intend to move them out of the thicket--it is really difficult to work with a thorn sticking in your behind. In the meantime, I will certainly keep this in mind while doing whatever I have to do with them.

    I am going to the ranch (that I refer to above) today. Whether or not I kill the colony, I would like to put some hives down there but I am about to change my mind--it is only ten miles or so to the Rio Grande river and the Mexcian border.

    As I said earlier, there is a healthy and strong colony living somewhere near the headquarters. I only see them around the stock waters but they are there by the "bunches." They seem to be pretty docile but once I did have one nail me on the back of the head as she flew by. Of course I haven't tried to pull a "home invasion" on them yet and I suspect that I might find them pretty aggressive if I did. But, I probably should see if I can't at least find where they are living.

    I have been told that can be done by focusing on one of the individuals at the water. Then, when she takes off, note the direction she goes--obviously she is going home. But, the problem with that is that my eyes are not as good as they used to be and I loose track of her before I can note the direction.

    Anybody got any suggestions for how to locate a wild colony?

    I'm outta here and will "talk" to you guys Monday. Thanks again for all the good help. I can tell that I did, indeed, come to the right place--a place where there is lots and lots of knowledge.

    jtl
     
  8. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Look this site over for a few minutes. It is presented as humor, but it is accurate and works well.

    http://www.bee-quick.com/500/index.html

    To see them better as they fly away, dust them with flour as they drink.
     
  9. Zookeep

    Zookeep Active Member

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    Welcome to the forums, Im new again this year (did keep bees years ago) and I had a hive like that this year, was like a war zone even smoking the heck out of the hive and I requeened it, what you could do cause its so late in the year is just leave the hive be also till the earliest point you can get a queen in the spring and just requeen before the hives start building up big. or like Iddee said kill them with sulfur in the early spring just before your package arrives then the package bees have a new home all built up. either way would protect all that built up comb from moths beetles and everything else.
     
  10. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    i am going to take you up on that beer offer some day.
     
  11. jlabaume

    jlabaume New Member

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    As of now, my thinking on this topic is that I will take tecumseh's suggestion, split the colony and install new queens.

    But, I am still going to need package bees for my new hives come spring. Anybody have any suggestions-recommendations for a good place for a west Texan (230 miles down the Rio Grande from El Paso) to buy bees adapted to a desert climate? (And incidentally, for those of you who may have never been here, white brush makes some of the best honey around).

    Any advice will be appreciated.

    jtl
     
  12. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Sounds like another question for Tecumseh. I know he sells nucs, I don't know about packages.
     
  13. jlabaume

    jlabaume New Member

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    Yeah, I am hoping he will pick up on it. If he doesn't by tomorrow, I will send him a personal email.

    I know that Dadant has an outlet in Paris, TX but that is half-way around the world from where I live. Also, it is over 600 miles from here to where tecumseh lives also.

    I don't know how much difference climate can make to bees but there is a great deal of difference between here and East Texas--they are very wet and we are very dry. In fact, we have only had 0.6 inches in measurable precipitation in the past 17 months!

    If you have any extra, send it along. BTW, my mother-in-law lives in Asheville. Nice area. We usually visit her for a few weeks once a year.

    jtl
     
  14. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    I'm 175 mile east of Asheville. The door is always open and the coffee pot stays on 24/7, just in case you want to ride a bit farther.
     
  15. jlabaume

    jlabaume New Member

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    We just might do that. I have an old buddy from Vietnam that lives over in the Raleigh-Durham area. In fact, we sat side by side on the same airplane on the way over there. Sometimes I try to get together with him while I'm down that way.

    We usually stay pretty close to the house though. Try to spend as much time as we can with the mother-in-law seeing as how she is over 90 years old.

    Anyway, thanks for the invite.

    jtl
     
  16. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    600 miles in Texas is almost like just around the corner anywhere else.... right?

    I will be rearing a few nucs here with Cordovan queens but all my stuff is for pick up only. if you wanted to go the package route and 'thought' you might want to avoid the insecticides associated with varroa then BWeaver* is the only person I know here in Texas that can assist you there. They have a very well developed web site and you can post question there in regards to their product... warning BWeaver has alway been 'the' price setting firm in regards to both queens and package for as long as I can recall. BWeaver can ship both packages (usps) and nucs (private carrier). If you post something there tell them ET sent you their way.

    at your location (like many in the western part of Texas) a year round source of water is extremely important FIRST thing to make certain you have available wherever you decide to set down hives.

    to your question in regards to bees and adaption to location... really I suspect the adaptation you might require is more a matter of equipment and methods than anything else. folks have successfully kept bees out your way before and success or failure as far as I can tell is more a matter of slight adaptations to equipment or sometime providing shade during critical months.

    I am vp (<primary clean up boy) for the Central Texas Beekeeping Association and we do a full contact bee school sometime in the early spring in Brenham, Tx. There is facebook page out there with pictures from past schools. If you think the school would be beneficial sign up for that and give me a 'hollar' and I would be more than happy to set aside you a nuc (most likely would be one of this fall seasons nucs) that you can take back home with you for a modest fee <I really haven't decided on price but these will most likely be priced at about the same level as last year.

    *in the light of full disclosure I do work a bit part time in the spring time package season for BWeaver. do not confuse RWeaver with BWeaver, they may have mail boxes right next to each other but they are not the same firm nor do they produce identical products.
     
  17. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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  18. jlabaume

    jlabaume New Member

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    Yep, 600 miles in the Lone Star Republic is "just up the road apiece" which is somewhere around "over yonder." lol

    I still haven't fully decided because I still have not determined, for a fact, that these bees are Africanized. The more I think about it, the more I lean toward most of the episode being my own fault. The wind was pretty high that day and I had been having trouble keeping the smoker lit. I did not check it when I moved from the first hive to the second. There is a very good chance that they didn't get any smoke. After all, why would one colony be all nice and docile while another one, located less than 10 yards away, be Africanized? I suppose it is possible but certainly not probable. I have contacted the uSDA ARS in Beltsville, MD but haven't had a reply yet.

    Anyway, what I am thinking is to do a split on this (or maybe these two) hives and use your Cordova queens. I like the idea of the distinct color as a "marker-indicator" for Africanization because we do know that it is a problem in this area.

    I would then order packages to populate the two new hives and take it from there.

    Water is not a problem because we have to have water for livestock at Sanderson and, if we decide to keep some of them here in Alpine (and we might because the vegetation is quite a bit different here vs. Sanderson) it wouldn't be a problem because they would be near the homestead.

    Thanks again for all the help and y'all come see us when you can.

    jtl
     
  19. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    a snip..
    The more I think about it

    tecumseh:
    out your way you are suppose to shoot first and ask question later.... right?

    just to reinforce your thinking.... old equipment tends to be stuck together in every direction you can image. for myself prying this stuff apart the first time often times gets the girls quite excited. almost without exception the next time the girls are less rattled by the bee keepers activity.
     
  20. jlabaume

    jlabaume New Member

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    Yes indeed. I think that was a part of it too. Those hives had not been opened for at least a year and maybe longer. I thought for a while I was going to have to go back to the shop and get a bigger hammer (just joking but not by much). It was when the top cover literally popped off that they came pouring out of the front entrance.

    jtl