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Africans In Northern California


Ugh. Not what I wanted to read in the news. This is about an hours drive from our location in San Francisco. Really unfortunate.

Africanized Bees In SF Bay Area


Nothing succeeds like success. They will dominate the world eventually! I don’t mind re-queening, I have had enough feisty hives to have developed a dislike of genetic drift anyhow.


Personally I haven’t got a final opinion on this issue as I have yet to have to deal directly with it. My overall view tends to be that bucking the trend is useless and it’s better to figure out how to manage the status quo.

On the other hand, we have our hive in a tiny backyard, and have neighbours ten feet away on three sides. And the hive is up against our house. we clearly don’t want any issues at all!

Makes me think the flows will be even more useful in situations such as this. Because if bees in general are going to become difficult to manage because of this then less managed may become the norm. The reality is unless a hive is failing to thrive you do not need to get into the brood boxes. You just don’t. If the hive is healthy and the supers show stores then everything south is in all likelihood just fine and doesn’t need messing with. A quick peek for capping before harvesting is all that is required.

Now if the hive is not thriving? Different story.

As for the keeper? The news says he was and experienced hobbyist, but I take anything a news story reports as suspect.

Not sure why anyone was moving a hive during the day, not closed up.


Honestly I think it is going to take people working with the africanized bees like they worked with all other bees to emphasize traits that we need to work bees. Selecting traits we want and discouraging those we don’t through selective breeding of feral bees. Eventually when I have some land that I can keep them safely away from passersby I plan on trying to do just this. For now I will likely have to keep requeening while it is in my back yard, but I would like to be able to work with feral bees for their resistance to pests and problems.

In talking to local swarm removal guys in my club quite a few feral hives display fairly gentle behavior though they are still more aggressive then italian queens etc. Unfortunately I think it is the aggressive nature of the bees that keeps them resistant to pests, and so nature is selecting for traits we don’t like and colonies that have traits we like are dying off because they are weaker and less capable.


While we are just tiny back yard beeks, we haven’t requeened in five years. All our hives are swarms, local to their area. occasionally we have a hive have problems and usually deal with one that fails to requeen by combining with a stronger hive.

We have never had a behavior issue. Time will tell how much that will change. The hive in question is closer to my hive as the crow flies, but closer to my dad’s geographically. It’s around 50 miles either way.


It’s certainly a way to lose a lot of bees even if they are nice bees…


Follow up Article

San Francisco Bay Area Bees


And the denouement…

User error, as is often the case in this world.


Hmm, mitochondrial DNA? Doesn’t that only tell you that the queen wasn’t Africanized? It surely doesn’t tell you anything about the drones she mated with. That is assuming that honey bees transmit mitochondria only through the maternal line, like humans. I don’t know whether that is true. Anyone else know?


OK, I worked hard on finding out the real truth on this. As expected, the answer is complicated, but I can try to simplify.

  1. The DNA test that they did proves that the queen was not African. Mitochondrial DNA from African queen bees yields one band on DNA analysis, Europeans have 2 bands. This only means that in the case of the Bay area hive, the African mitochondria will not rule the Bay area. Mitochondria don’t normally affect behavior, they are more related to nerve and muscle function, and also allow you to track where populations came from. I think this is a total red herring in this case.
  2. As I suspected, and I bet most forum readers did too, you can have a European queen inseminated by africanized drones. Her offspring will be aggressive africanized workers, but none of them will have African mitochondria. They are hybrids, not African, but they are africanized, and they may be just as obnoxious.

Some of the details are explained on page 389 of the following publication, should you wish to look it up on Google. It won’t allow a direct link, so you will have to search, sorry: :blush:
Monitoring Changes in Species: Africanization in
U.S. Honeybees
Marianne Niedzlek-Feaver1, Patricia Aune2, and Miriam Ferzli3

To “bottom-line” it, as my US colleagues used to love to say… If the Mitosome test is positive for African mitochondria, the bees are definitely africanized, and the queen is African lineage. If the test is negative, the workers may still be africanized from the drone DNA contribution, you can’t rule it out.


Interesting. There would have to be African drones where ever this (mated?) queen came from. If she is a local queen to that hive, the odds of African drones is statistically a pretty low one.

Honestly I really think it was just user error.

On the notable night that my Dad and Himself tried to move a hive and failed, dropping it in the process, the bees were PO’d big time. At night in December. Dozens of stings on the boys. Happily the scotch they had imbibed before the attempt left them somewhat desensitized to the pain ; -P

This happened in the middle of the day on a warm afternoon. Other than the poor dogs it was just a nuisance, no one was describing hundreds of stings.

Wanna bet that if you inspected that hive you might see the dent where the box was dropped?


Time will tell, but I beg to differ. I think as urban beekeepers, it is our duty and our privilege to flood the bee gene pool with docile genes in drones. That is why I don’t like cutting out drone comb. I want a peaceful neighborhood, and if my drones can be numerous in the local DCAs, that helps. African drones are like Kenyan marathon runners - they win a lot of the time, because their genes help them. The only thing we can do to mitigate the bee situation, is to make sure that there are a lot of docile drones around. Stochastics (chance) play a role too, although performance influences chance…

I am not saying that there is no user error, but if they went beyond the mitosome analysis into the non-mitochondrial DNA, I think it would be much more informative.


I agree that more robust testing would make much sense in this case, but we have not had incursions of Africanized bees In Northern California in the coastal areas. They seem to stay in the central valley and seem, nation wide to not be progressing much north of 37°. That’s why I think it’s unlikely this batch was AHBs. If the queen was bred in Nor Cal the opportunity for her mating flight to have included African drones is so low as to be nonexistent. What scenario are you picturing where this queen could be producing AHBs?


Even in coastal SoCal more than 50% of feral hives show africanized behavior, according to live removal professionals in my local beekeeping society. So I was envisioning drones from feral colonies inseminating nice clean hobby beekeepers’ queens. Especially as the drones are smaller, faster and more aggressive than their chubby, docile, European competitors.

I understand that you have not had incursions of AHB…yet. But I am certain that the time will come, unfortunately. If people are tracking AHB incursion by mitosome analysis, I fear that they will already be woefully underestimating africanization.