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Bee questions ...

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

I am new to this forum (in fact ... didn't even know we had a beekeeper forum on DG until today!). I noticed there is no sticky thread to address basic questions, so I hope some of you don't mind answering questions that I am sure have been asked and answered many times before in other threads ... I do appreciate it!

I live in a residental neighborhood, though I do have vacant and overgrown lots behind and to the west of me. I garden for Hummingbirds and Butterflies. And of course, I don't mind the bees at all either. But I have become concerned lately. I have several large porterweed and Golden Dewdrop bushes and I have a Coral Honeysuckle bush that has been trained as a standard. So it is in tree form now. It is currently blooming profusely. For months before the CH bloomed, I could hear buzzing near the back of my privacy fenced in yard. The fence is 6' vinyl white fencing. There is a vacant lot behind that area. And there is a rotted out old tree (not sure what kind). But I see no bees coming from that area. I just hear them.

Well the past couple of days, my CH tree has been putting on a beautiful show of colorful orange blooms. Today is Saturday and I am off from work, so had time to observe. I noticed that my resident hummer is avoiding the blooms. She was going for them when the tree was just starting to bloom. Now she is back at the Shrimp Plant blooms and the Firespike blooms next to the CH tree. I decided to investigate and went outside to see what was going on. Much to my shock, there are hundreds, maybe a thousand or more bees. They look just like honey bees buzzing around the blooms! So many that even the butterflies can hardly get a sip of nectar.

My questions:

1) Where do Honey Bees typically build their hives? I am trying to determine if there is indeed a nest behind my fence somewhere. There are large Brazilian Pepper trees in those vacant lots. (Which are everywhere unfortunately!)

2) I am also concerned about African Killer Bees (which I have seen a swarm here in the past). How can I tell the behavior of my bees to determine if they are actual non-aggressive bees or african bees? So far I have not been attacked by any of these bees, but they do act odd at times. They will fly/buzz right near me, but none have bumped me yet.

3) There used to be citrus groves about a 1/2 mile away, but most of those groves have been abandoned or removed. Could these bees be looking for another nectar source and have now come into the neighborhoods that host nectar flowers?

4) If there is a honeybee nest near my yard, how dangerous is this for me and other family members? Do honeybees normally mind their own business and ignore people or can they become protective and attack?

I am sure I will have more questions, but these were my main concerns at this time. Thanks for any answers folks here care to share to enlighten me.

Thumbnail by beckygardener
Forestville, NY

The hive could be located any where in a 2 mile radius. If its a feral hive it would be any where that is dry dark and near a water source. I would contact a local beekeeper to help you locate the hive, and fine out what type they are . If it located you can have it removed or just leave it alone and make your friends and family aware of them. If you are unsure of who your local beekeeper is contact you state department of ag.

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

Thanks, JsHoney! I will look into that. I had no idea that they could have a hive so far away and all fly together to a nectar source. If that is the case, it could be anywhere in the wooded areas that take up a large percentage of that 2 mile radius. Maybe I have one of the few nectar sources currently for such a large colony.

SE Arky, United States(Zone 8a)

I just read this post. I've followed the same bees for 47 years. They are gentle and the only time there have been stings are when someone walks through grass/clover and a bee might get in their shoe, or, one time, a kid was racing to dive in the cement pond & he ran into a bee, which stung him. The stings were not serious, and go away quickly. I have tall crepe myrtle, planted for the bees and they hoover in them all season, their buzzing is so loud - and an unusual sound. Once guests understand that they are 'sweet' bees, we sit on the deck under the crepes & enjoy their buzzing. They collect so much pollen that they appear drunk & their load is so heavy, they fly like they are drunk. And, it's a pretty long way home (as a heavy laden bee flies, ha!) to their hives that are in big, old trees on our property, approximately a couple of hundred yards from our deck.

The bees hate the blower, so we blow early in the am or late in the pm. And, they are most compatible with people, we respect them & their job, and they leave us alone. Some are nosey and buzz around me while I pot plants & tend to gardening chores.

A while ago there was a hostile bee takeover instigated by African Bees, who were aggressive pests but none of us were stung. Our bees were way more plentiful and they just continued their work and the mean bees moved on. Several in my community reported similar situations. We are all bee people & we don't use harmful sprays & we avoid pruning the trees, shrubs when the bees are into heavy pollen harvesting, we mow around the bees schedule.

We love our bees and we are delighted they return each year...

Richmond, TX

How did you recognize the fact that the invaders were Africanized?

Forestville, NY

How do the experts tell AHB from other bees?
At the local level, a Fast Africanized Bee Identification System (FABIS) test can be performed. Starting with a sample of 50 to 100 bees, 10 bees are randomly sorted. The right wing is removed from each and mounted on microscope slides, and the average wing length is calculated. If the average wing length is over 9mm, the bees are European Honey Bees. If the average wing length is under 9mm, the bees are suspect Africanized Honey Bees. They are only suspect AHB because there are some Egyptian Honey Bees in the county that are a domesticated bee but are slightly smaller that the EHB. Some EHB are also slightly smaller than usual. The FABIS test is like the TB skin test. If the test is negative, you do not have TB. If the test is positive, you might have TB but need a more sophisticated test to be sure.

If there is a need to know for certain that the sample is AHB or not, e.g., a multiple stinging incident or death, the sample is sent to the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) for further testing. They can perform either a DNA, or complete morphometrics test. The DNA test compares the DNA from the sample to known DNA standards to determine whether the bees are AHB or not. This test can be done on a small sample size but not if the bees were killed with certain pesticides. The chemicals used to kill the bees interfere with the test. Complete morphometrics can be used when the sample is contaminated with pesticides. Complete morphometrics is a series of very precise measurements of various parts of the bees in the sample. Some involve lengths of specific body parts, some involve the angles of wing veins. These measurements are then averaged and compared to a standard. A complete morphometrics test requires a larger sample size than the DNA test. Both tests are quite accurate and are considered the final word in AHB determination.
Picture of a AHB

Thumbnail by JsHoney
SE Arky, United States(Zone 8a)

The media reported the African and, or killer bees in our area. The 'mean bees' were larger & not as cute/pretty as our 'honey bees'. Our bees have been tracked on this property since the first neighborhoods were established. The African bees were were larger, darker in color, their wings more flat, and, as I recall, and the segments in their bodies, were not as distinct as the honey bees, which are rather 'chubby' and, or curved. The honey bees have a more pleasant hum, the other bees buzz & dart when they fly toward you, in an aggressive fashion.

We absolutely love our bees & we are so glad the intruders did not succeed in their hostile takeover attempt...also, crepe myrtle honey is the very best ever!!!

Pahrump, NV

I have been watching the bees here in SW Nevada now for about seven years, since I planted lots of fruit trees in the yard. A few years ago they became somewhat agressive and seemed to be "africanized." But, this summer they were back to their usual calm selves. The problem was that their numbers were down and I also had deeply pruned in the winter here. So, very little fruit and nuts produced.

Now, in the middle of our "winter," I have lots of honey bees visiting the 3 hummingbird feeders on the North side of the house. For some reason, not many are attracted to the one on the South side. Good for the "hummers" as they don't mix well with the bees.

This was the worst summer for Peach Tree Borers and I ended up painting all the trunks of all the fruit and nut some amputations and one cherry tree had to be a Bartlett Pear.

SE Arky, United States(Zone 8a)

We have fruit trees, plum, fig, blueberry, pear, mulberry; yet, our bees LOVE the crepe myrtle - Natchez White is their favorite. I'd think they'd like the red, pink, purple crepes best, but it's the Natchez White that attracts them - could be because they grow taller than the other fruit trees & the colored crepe.

I'm in an odd location that only attracts under a dozen hummers a season, but they do fine with the bees. Actually, nothing seems to bother the bees or hummers, both very determined & single minded re their 'work' and seem to ignore each other...good luck with your bees - we absolutely love ours...

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

Becky, if you have honeybees flocking around, you should feel nothing but lucky. Not only are they pollinizing everything within sight, it means that your general environment is on the healthy side.

Arlington, TX

i have a group of bees in my front yard in a circle on the grass
they just showed up yesterday. what should i do? will they attack people or pets ?
we have a lot of people that walk their pets in the evenings help

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

How many bees? Does it look like thousands? Are they in a clump? If so, they are a migrating hive looking for a new home -- get on the Internet & find the nearest beekeepers & they will come take care of them for you!

Beaverton, OR

Beckygardiner - beautiful - hummingbird garden - i hope the hummers come back to your cape honeysuckle. In Oregon I can't grow that - love your morning glories also.

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