Denver | Reuters –– Africanized honey bees have turned up in Colorado, officials said Tuesday, surprising scientists who previously doubted they could survive winters at northern latitudes.
The Mesa County Health Department said in a statement that a peach grower contacted authorities last month to report abnormally aggressive behaviour at a beehive on his orchard in Palisade, Colorado, about 70 km east of the Utah border.
Specimens were shipped to a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory in California, and the hive was destroyed, the department said.
“This is the farthest north that Africanized honey bees have been reported,” the health department said.
Bob Hammon, an entomologist with Colorado State University’s Tri-River Extension office in western Colorado, said the fact that the bees were found in the spring suggests they survived through the winter.
Sometimes dubbed “killer bees” because of the aggressive way they defend colonies and hives, the Africanized bees first arrived in the Western Hemisphere in the 1950s when they were brought to a facility in Brazil.
The plan was to breed them with more docile European bees to boost honey production, but some of the Africanized bees escaped into the wild and the first colonies reached the U.S. in 1990, Hammon said.
While the venom from an Africanized honey bee is no more potent than that of a European honey bee, the risk of multiple stings makes the Africanized bees especially dangerous.
— Keith Coffman reports for Reuters from Denver.