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CBP finds Africanized Honey Bees on vessel

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists have found African Honey Bees (AHB) aboard a vessel in Savannah, GA that arrived from Mexico. The bees had been present for one to two weeks and were present in the interior surface of the bow of the vessel, which had also visited ports in Venezuela and Colombia before its Savannah arrival.

A local member of the Coastal Empire Beekeeper’s Association was contacted to remove the suspected AHBs. The bees were vacuumed and collected, the queen was also collected inside a trap and the hive was destroyed, according to CBP. Specimens were submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for identification. USDA, charged with providing species identification of pests on behalf of other government agencies, made a final determination that they were Apis mellifera scutellata Lepellepeletier, the AHB.

AHBs are a hybrid between European/Western Honey Bees and AHB created in 1956 in Brazil in an effort to increase honey production. The bees subsequently escaped and have been colonizing their way to the U.S. ever since. The hybrid strain reached the U.S. by 1990 and were found in Florida in 2001 and reported in Georgia in 2010. AHB colonies are hyper aggressive when disturbed, have less honey production, and swarm and move their hives more often than the Western Honey Bee. AHB nests are commonly located on the ground in older style water meters and bushes or exposed areas whereas the European species prefers more private and protected hives.

“The interception of the African Honey Bees at the Port of Savannah is based on partnerships and close collaboration with all stakeholders,” said Savannah Area Port Director Lisa Beth Brown. “All members and stakeholders have a vested interest in protecting agriculture in the U.S.”

The Savannah Pest Risk Committee recently hosted two multi-agency meetings with members and stakeholders to discuss the threat AHB poses to Georgia. The committee is comprised of CBP, USDA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Department of Forestry and the University Of Georgia-Department of Entomology, and stakeholders such as the Coastal Empire Beekeeper’s Association, Georgia Ports Authority, Savannah Fire and Emergency Medical Services and Clemson University.

Florida has developed protocols for preserving genetics of the Western Honey Bee, the main honey producing species, by maintaining control of the queen’s genetics in each hive. Florida’s emergency responders and bee keepers have had to develop special handling procedures and equipment to manage the more aggressive Africanized Bee colonies to minimize harm to themselves, the public and to the honey producing hives. Attendees met and discussed how to manage AHB presence in Georgia and develop plans and protocols for mitigating the impact to beekeeping and honey production as well as emergency response.

The Atlanta Pest Risk Committee recently held a similar meeting on AHB and plans are being discussed for similar trainings in other Southern States.



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