California’s agriculture director today ordered wild bees destroyed within a 50-mile radius of the site where the nation’s first known swarm of Africanized honeybees was found.
Agriculture chief Clare Berryhill said his decision “pretty much follows” the recommendations of a blue-ribbon advisory panel of bee experts that met Tuesday in Bakersfield. (Story, Page 14.)
The wild bees in the area are the “most likely to have bred with Africanized bees” and thus are targeted for destruction with pesticides, Berryhill said. He did not say how long the procedure will take, but “we will start immediately.”
Berryhill also said state investigators will test commercial hives in a smaller, 400-square-mile quarantine area surrounding Lost Hills, taking 50 bees from each hive for analysis.
The five-member panel said it is “highly improbable” that the Africanized honeybees will “have any long-term effects” on California. It said the bees’ ferocity probably will be genetically diluted by mating with domestic American honeybees.
The 50-mile radius around the town of Lost Hills, near where the first swarm of killer bees was found in an underground burrow June 25, encompasses 7,854 square miles in six west-central California counties.
The Africanized bees are popularly known as “killer bees” because of their reputation for ferocity. Their sting is no more venomous than domestic bees, but they are easily aroused to attack and attack in swarms.
Removal of Honey an Issue
Some beekeepers complained that they could not remove honey from hives in the quarantine area.
“It’s something that needs to be done real bad in the next three weeks,” said beekeeper Barbara Pflugh, who has 216 hives in the quarantine area.