Wild Honey Bees In Community Environments – Identification .

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az1846July 2020Wild Honey Bees in Community Environments –Identification, Biology, and Reducing RisksShaku Nair, Dawn H. Gouge, Ayman Mostafa ,Shujuan Li, Kai Umeda, Hongmei Li-ByarlayThis publication is designed for Arizona residents and visitors.The goal of this publication is to provide readers with basic information about wild honey bees inArizona. The document includes information on identification, biology and behavior of wild honeybees, the risks they pose outdoors, and how to safely deal with bees encountered in the environment.IntroductionThe term ‘bee’ refers to insects belonging to sevenbee families within the superfamily Apoidea. The beesuperfamily is in the insect order Hymenoptera which alsoincludes ants and wasps. Many bees (and some ant andwasp species) produce and store honey-like substancesby collecting and ingesting nectar from plants andregurgitating it. However, true honey bees belong to thegenus Apis, in the family Apidae. They are distinguishedby their traits of producing and storing honey andconstructing perennial nests from wax.Honey bees represent only a small fraction of beesworldwide. There are approximately 20,000 knownspecies of bees in the world, and more than 4,000 nativebee species in North America. Most bees are pollinators(Fig. 1) and regarded as beneficial, but some are feared andcan be considered pests in certain situations because oftheir painful stings, related allergic reactions, and damagecaused by nesting activities. Honey bees are among themost widely studied insects, and the specific branch ofstudy is known as apiology. They are held in high regardfor their multiple benefits to humankind.Figure 1. Pollination by honey bees. Note pollen loaded on the hind leg.Photo: Padmanand NambiarThe western honey bee (also known as the Europeanhoney bee), Apis mellifera (Fig. 2) is the most common andbest-known of all bees in the U.S. but is actually nativeto Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This species wasintroduced into the Americas by European immigrantsaround 1622. It is domesticated and maintained bybeekeepers for the pollination of crops and production ofhoney.Similar to many other social insects, honey bees formcolonies containing adult bees including a reproductiveFigure 2. Western honey bee, Apis mellifera. Photo: John Severns

queen, a few hundred drones and thousands of infertileworkers with specific colony tasks. Eggs, larvae andpupae in various developmental stages are also presentin a colony. Honey bees in a colony communicate witheach other using specific chemical and mechanical cues.Workers use patterns of movements known as “dances”to communicate about food sources (Von Frisch and Leigh1967; Seeley 2009; Tarpy 2016).Wild honey bees (also called Africanized bees) in Arizonaare a hybrid of the western honey bee (Apis mellifera), andother bee subspecies including the East African lowlandhoney bee (Apis mellifera scutellata), the Italian honey beeApis mellifera ligustica, and the Iberian honey bee Apismellifera iberiensis. They sometimes establish coloniesamong tree branches (Fig. 3), but more often utilize humanmade or naturally occurring enclosed spaces. The urbanbuilt environment offers many opportunities includinghollow-block walls, building wall voids, attic and crawlspaces, and in-ground irrigation boxes. Wild bees willcolonize vacant hive boxes belonging to beekeepers. Manynatural voids are also used including hollow tree trunksand stumps, rock crevices and caves. If a honey bee colonyis removed from a void, the interior should be cleaned outcompletely and entrance points sealed, or new swarmswill recolonize the space. Wild honey bees are known tooutcompete many native bee species for resources.It is difficult to distinguish between western honey beesand the Africanized hybrids because many aspects of theirbehavior and appearance are similar (Fig. 4). All wildFigure 4. Africanized honey bee (left) and western honey bee (right).Photo: Dennis Riggshoney bees in Arizona are considered to be ‘Africanized’to some extent and only genetic testing can reveal thespecific lineages in a colony of bees. Africanized bees mayhave a larger alarm zone around their colony, which theymay aggressively and rapidly defend in larger numbersrelative to western honey bees. They often chase intrudersor perceived threats over longer distances.Africanized bees exhibit more frequent swarming andmigration in response to stress. Sometimes, the entirecolony may migrate to a new location in a behavior called‘absconding’ (Delaplane, 2017).Africanized bees are less predictable in their behavior.IdentificationWild honey bee adults are medium to large-sized insects,about ¼ inch to slightly over 1 inch in length depending onthe kind of adult or caste.Figure 3. Wild honey bees with their hive in a tree. Photo: Dennis Riggs2The University of Arizona Cooperative ExtensionA wild honey bee colony contains three kinds of adults– the queen and workers (females) and drones (males).The workers are the smallest in size, the most numerousand are the individuals usually seen outside the colony.In general, all adults have robust amber-colored to darkbrown bodies covered with dense hair. Light and darkstripes may be seen on the abdomen, which also has astinger at the rear end in the workers. Mouthparts (called a“proboscis”) may be seen extending below the head. Hindwings are smaller than the front wings. Hind legs are stoutand equipped with specialized structures called ‘corbicula’(pollen baskets) which are used to carry pollen from plantsto the colony. Forager workers are often observed withyellow pollen-balls attached to them (Fig. 1). The colony alsocontains eggs, and brood (larvae and pupae) in variousstages of development (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. Inside a honey bee colony. Note the queen (circled) and cellswith larvae or pupae (arrows). Photo: WaugsbergUnderstanding wild honey beesaround your home or buildingIt is natural to find bees in the environment. Most honeybees observed in the landscape are foraging bees fromestablished colonies looking for water, nectar or othersugary, sweet-smelling substances or pollen. Individualhoney bees are generally not a cause for concern (unlessyou are an allergy sufferer), but groups of honey beescan be alarming. There are two situations in which largegroups may be seen; a swarm and a colony.Figure 6. Honey bee swarm on a tree branch. Photo: Mark OsgatharpIf a cluster of bees suddenly appears on a tree branch(Fig. 6), wall(Fig. 7), or other spot (Fig. 8) this is most likelya resting swarm. But if you see many bees passing in andout of a cavity, this indicates the presence of a colony within(Fig. 9).Wild honey bee swarmsWhat is honey bee swarming? As spring days lengthen,and temperatures increase, plants generating new sourcesof pollen and nectar stimulate the rearing of brood andhoney bee colonies eventually become overcrowded. Thisnecessitates swarming. Swarming is common duringspring and continues throughout the year while pollenand nectar sources support growing colonies. This isgreatly influenced by environmental conditions.How does swarming occur? In an active honey beecolony, there is a single queen. Honey bee queens producea pheromone that inhibits the production of new queenbees. The queen is rarely seen outside and hardly everneeds to fly. She stays deep inside the comb, cared forFigure 7. Honey bee swarm on external wall of a building. Photo: WardUpham, Kansas State University, Bugwood.orgby the worker bees, and lays eggs continually. But as thecolony become increasingly crowded the pheromone failsto make it to all the bees, or older queens begin to producelower levels of the pheromone. Uninhibited worker beescreate larger elongated rearing cells called queen cups.Once eggs in the queen cups hatch, the larvae are givenThe University of Arizona Cooperative Extension3

Figure 16. If surrounded by bees, cover face with hands and try to lookthrough gaps between fingers and move away quickly! Photo: Shaku NairDo not flap or swat at the bees. This is the worst thing to do,because honey bees are very sensitive to movements in theiralarm zone!If you are stung or the bees bump you, cover your headand face with clothing or your hands and run to the nearestbuilding, car or shelter, go inside and close the doors. If youare outdoors and not close to shelter, run or walk brisklyfor at least 240 yards (the length of two football fields) oras far as you can go until the bees have abandoned you.If you cannot move from where you are, cover your facewith clothing, crouch down to make yourself as small aspossible protecting your head and face, and remain as stilland calm as you can.Never dive into a swimming pool or river; the bees will waitfor you far longer than you can hold your breath!After a sting, the honey bee’s barbed stinger gets lodged inthe victim’s skin and pulls the venom sac and venom pumpout of the bee’s body as it struggles to fly off (Fig. 17). Thisresults in the death of the bee, and the stinger continuesto release venom for several minutes after being separatedfrom the bee’s body. It is important to scrape off the stinger(or at least the venom sac) as soon as possible, to reducethe amount of venom entering the skin. Prompt removalusing any available means can greatly reduce the severityof the sting reaction. But avoid using your fingers to pinchoff the stinger, as you might squeeze the attached venomgland increasing the amount of venom injected into yourbody.Most healthy adults can withstand several hundred beestings, so fatalities due to toxic levels of venom are extremelyrare. Panic responses to bees and other flying insects causemore loss of life than sting incidents each year.Bee stings are painful, and the discomfort and swelling canlast 2-3 days. Prolonged or severe reactions may occur in8The University of Arizona Cooperative ExtensionFigure 17. Honey bee stinger lodged in the victim’s skin. Photo:Waugsberg, Wikimedia Commonssensitive people or people with bee allergy, and this is themost significant problem. Communicate with those aroundyou if you have severe sensitivities and always carry anepinephrine autoinjector or alternative emergency treatmentfor anaphylaxis.Discourage bees from nesting in andaround your home or buildingNot everyone wants to discourage honey bees aroundtheir property, but for those managing locations withvulnerable people (e.g., childcare facility), or residentsliving with bee allergies it can be advisable. Honey beesneed food, water and shelter to survive. Restrictingaccess to suitable nesting sites will encourage them to goelsewhere to live (O’Malley et al. 2007). Moving resourcesaway from buildings will further reduce encounters.Eliminate favorable nest sites Do not attempt to seal holes or fill voids if bees areactively moving in and out of it (Fig. 18). Fill holes ⅛ inch or larger in walls, and structureswith voids inside. Use a good quality sealant to fillall cracks or gaps in walls, rooflines and aroundfoundations. DO NOT fill tree holes with concrete, gravel or sand.These materials can cause tree damage and becomea safety issue if the tree is cut down. Tree voidsmay be filled with expanding foam used for homeinsulation projects and mesh screen used to blockentrance opportunities. Fill in rodent or animal burrows in the ground. Remove backyard items that might serve as a shelter,such as overturned clay pots. Put mesh screening over rainspouts, chimneys andwater meter boxes.

Figure 18. Tree crevice with actively moving honey bees. Photo: JMK,Wikimedia CommonsFigure 19. Honey bees drinking from a bird bath. Photo: Cornelia Moore Ensure that window and door frames fit tightly. Ensure that outbuildings or external sheds arekept well maintained and in good repair, and thatdoors close tightly. Exercise caution when enteringbuildings that are not used frequently. Ground-nesting bees including digger bees, sweatbees, and mining bees can be discouraged bymulching or planting a ground cover over largepatches of bare ground, or soaking with water.Eliminate water sources Promptly repair leaks in outdoor water taps andirrigation systems. Educate children to avoid handling bees around orcaught in swimming pools. Monitor bird baths, pet water bowls (Fig. 19), andwater features. If bees are using these as a watersource, sometimes moving them to other locationscan be helpful.Eliminate food sources Understandandselectlandscapeplantsappropriately. If your aim is to discourage honeybees from around your property or certain areas ofit, avoid plants, shrubs, and trees known to be highlyattractive to honey bees. Gather and discard fruit dropped from treesregularly. Cover food when eating outdoors, especially sugary,sweet-smelling foods and drinks. Honey bees oftenenter open soda cans (Fig. 20) and cause stings inand around your mouth! Clean up food and drink spills promptly. Keep trash receptacles closed, and away frombuilding entrances. Placing open topped trashFigure 20. Honey bee on open soda can. Photo: Shaku Nairreceptacles next to doorways may be practical fromone perspective, but encourages honey bees andwasps to forage near to doorways, and some willgain access to building interiors as a result. Use strong liners for trash receptacles, which do notrip easily and spill inside the receptacle. Empty outdoor trash cans frequently to avoidoverflow. Place dumpsters and outdoor trash cans away frombuilding entrances. Cover hummingbird feeding points with coarsemesh to allow hummingbird feeding but excludebees.We do not recommend the use of pesticide sprays on beeswarms or colonies.If you are planning on using pesticides to remediatea colony, please read and understand all parts of theproduct label before use. Accidental or intentional misuseThe University of Arizona Cooperative Extension9

can lead to far more significant problems. If you plan toapply pesticides to control weeds and pest insects aroundyour property consider researching different managementoptions online before making a purchase. Look for optionsthat have the least impact on pollinators and other nontarget organisms.Pesticide labels contain information on safety to pollinators.Read the label. The label is the law!ConclusionImproved awareness and understanding of wild honeybees and other pollinators adds to the enjoyment of theoutdoors. Pollinator protection is a national priority, andvarious federal and regional organizations actively engagein the effort. Numerous resources are available, some ofwhich are listed under references.Bee smart!Do not try to remove honey bee colonies yourself!NEVER shoot at, throw water, rocks, gasoline or otherchemicals, burn or otherwise threaten honey bee colonies.Honey bees should be removed by experiencedprofessionals.AcknowledgmentsThis material is based upon work that is supported inpart by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S.Department of Agriculture, under award number 201770006-27145 and NI181445XXXXG007. Additional fundingis provided by the Arizona Pest Management Center,and University of Arizona. Any findings, conclusions, orrecommendations expressed in this publication are thoseof the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views ofthe U.S. Department of Agriculture or the University ofArizona.References Cited and Sources forMore InformationArizona Department of Agriculture. 2016. ArizonaManagement Plan for the Protection of Pollinators(Arizona MP3). goo.gl/uJaFkdBuchmann, S.L., S. Bealmear, S. Prajzner, and V. Wojcik.2011. Arizona Bee Identification Guide. eneralFiles/AZ bee guide FINAL.pdf10The University of Arizona Cooperative ExtensionDelaplane, K.S. 2017. Africanized Honey Bees. Universityof Georgia Cooperative Extension publication. /files/pdf/B%201290 5.PDFO'Malley, M. K., J. D. Ellis, A. S. Neal. 2007. Bee-proofingfor Florida citizens. UF/IFAS Extension Publication No.ENY-143. Entomology and Nematology Department,University of Florida. eley, T.D. 2009. The wisdom of the hive: the social physiologyof honey bee colonies. Harvard University Press.Tarpy, D. 2016. The honey bee dance language. NC StateExtension publication No. AG 646. ageThe White House. 2015. National strategy to promote thehealth of honey bees and other pollinators. les/images/Blog/PPAP 2016.pdfvon Frisch, K. and L.E. Chadwick. 1967. The dance languageand orientation of bees. Vol. 1. Cambridge, MA: BelknapPress of Harvard University Press.

The University of ArizonaCollege of Agriculture and Life SciencesTucson, Arizona 85721AUTHORSShaku NairAssociate in Extension-Community IPM, Department of EntomologyDawn H. GougeSpecialist and Professor, Public Health Entomology, Department ofEntomologyAyman MostafaArea Programmatic Agent & Regional Specialist, Cooperative Extension& Dept. of EntomologyShujuan LiAssociate in Extension-Public Health IPM, Department of EntomologyKai UmedaArea Extension Agent, Turfgrass Science, Maricopa County CooperativeExtensionHongmei Li-ByarlayAssistant Professor of Entomology, Agricultural Research andDevelopment Program, Central State UniversityCONTACTShaku Nairnairs@arizona.eduThis information has been reviewedby University Other titles from Arizona Cooperative Extensioncan be found at:extension.arizona.edu/pubsAny products, services or organizations that are mentioned, shown or indirectly implied in this publicationdo not imply endorsement by The University of Arizona.Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Jeffrey C. Silvertooth, Associate Dean & Director, Extension& Economic Development, Division of Agriculture, Life and Veterinary Sciences, and Cooperative Extension, The University of Arizona.The University of Arizona is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution. The University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status,sexual orientation, gender identity, or genetic information in its programs and activities.The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension11

Wild honey bees (also called Africanized bees) in Arizona are a hybrid of the western honey bee (Apis mellifera), and other bee subspecies including the East African lowland honey bee (Apis mellifera scutellata), the Italian honey bee . Apis mellifera ligustica, and the Iberian honey bee . Apis mellifera iberiensis. They sometimes establish colonies

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