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The African(ized) Queen: New Twist Found To Hive Drama / May 23, 2000 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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The African(ized) Queen: New Twist Found To Hive Drama

By Marcia Wood
May 23, 2000

Africanized honey bees have an unexpected advantage in the battle to keep beekeepers from replacing highly defensive Africanized queens with gentle, easily managed European ones.

Within only one week after their queen dies or is removed by beekeepers, Africanized worker bees--which are female--are capable of activating their ovaries to produce viable female eggs for re-queening the hive. That's according to preliminary findings by Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman of the ARS Carl Hayden Bee Research Center, Tucson, Ariz., and Stanley S. Schneider of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

European worker bees' ovaries can't start producing eggs until the queen has been missing for at least three weeks. And, egg-laying worker bees that are queenless typically produce male offspring. In contrast, the Africanized workers' faster, one-week response to queenlessness, and ability to produce a queen from their own female eggs, could explain why many beekeepers' efforts to re-queen an Africanized hive with a docile European queen haven't succeeded. Queens introduced into colonies that have egg-laying workers will be attacked and killed.

Scientists already knew that some kinds of African honey bees, such as the Cape bee of South Africa, can lay viable female eggs within one week of becoming queenless, and nurture them to become their queen. But the ARS and University researchers are apparently the first to observe this phenomenon in Africanized worker bees in the northern hemisphere.

Migrating from Brazil, Africanized bees are today found in Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico and Nevada.

The scientists are developing new tactics to foil the Africanized workers' ability to make their own Africanized queen. DeGrandi-Hoffman reported the findings at the Second International Conference on Africanized Honey Bees and Bee Mites, held recently in Tucson. ARS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief research wing, was co-sponsor.

Scientific contact: Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, ARS Carl Hayden Bee Research Center, Tucson, Ariz., phone (520) 670-6380, ext. 105, fax (520) 670-5550, gdhoff@aol.com.

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