Africanized honeybees have been found in the New Orleans area since July of 2005, but the regularity and frequency of finding them there is new cause for concern.
Another confirmed positive Africanized honeybee sample in the New Orleans area indicates the bees are most likely established there now, Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Bob Odom said.
The positive sample was found in a trap along the Mississippi River in St. Bernard Parish about five miles downriver from a confirmed find earlier this year. The location is about one mile south of Meraux and two miles southeast of Chalmette.
“In January, a colony of Africanized honeybees was found in a St. Bernard Parish house being torn down because of damage from Hurricane Katrina. The proximity of this find indicates the bees could be a swarm from that colony or could be from a ship or barge passing by on the river,” Odom said. “Although the exact source can’t be identified, we have to assume Africanized honeybees are now established in the area and people should be careful when working outside.”
The Department of Agriculture and Forestry maintains Africanized honeybee traps along a north-south corridor through the state and at all deepwater ports. These traps will continue to be utilized in monitoring the progression of Africanized honeybees across the state.
So far this year, LDAF’s New Orleans District has collected 40 samples from traps near the Mississippi River and the port. Five of the samples were sent to the USDA for further confirmation. Of those, three were negative, one was positive and one is pending results.
Africanized bees are smaller and more aggressive than the European honeybees commonly raised for honey production. Their hostile nature concerns many outdoor enthusiasts.
“Because Africanized bees have been labeled ‘killer bees’ for years, there’s an idea around that they are bigger than European honeybees,” Odom said. “The truth is they’re actually smaller but a lot fiercer.”
The venom in Africanized bees is the same as that in European bees, but Africanized bees will sting in greater numbers leading to a toxic reaction in some cases. Experts recommend seeking cover immediately to reduce the number of stings in a confrontation with Africanized bees.
Africanized honeybees were first discovered in Louisiana in July 2005 when LDAF received notification from USDA that samples sent to the national bee lab in Tucson, Ariz., were confirmed as the Africanized variety. The samples were taken in June 2005 from a swarm of bees found in a trap near the town of Rodessa in north Caddo Parish. It was the first case of Africanized bees moving into the state through natural range expansion. Since then, they have steadily moved east through the state most recently being confirmed near Pecan Island and Turkey Creek.
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