Are killer bees coming to South Georgia? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Are killer bees coming to South Georgia?

August 16, 2005

Irwin County-- It's no horror movie. Killer bees are coming. Africanized bees already made their way into Florida and they may not be too far from buzzing into Georgia.

To the average person, bees are just black and yellow flying annoyances. "These are italian, what we call European honey bees," says beekeeper Terry Hester. For beekeeper Terry Hester, european honey bees have been a living for about fifteen years. "Of course it all started when I was four-years-old and my great-grandfather keeping bees," says Hester.

It's a life-long passion that requires precaution with a little smoke to calm the bees and a special suit. "They allow the air to come in but keep the bees out," says Hester. Hester says no amount of smoke or kind of suit will keep a dangerous kind of bee from entering South Georgia. "Now if we get africanized bees, I don't know," says Hester.

Africanized bees, or what some call killer bees are already established in California, Texas and now in Florida. "Areas that have africanized bees, there's been human loss of life, 14 lives that I know of in the United States, multiple counts of livestock that's been lost," says Hester. There's also been hundreds of sting victims. Hester says if other area beekeepers aren't more careful about moving bees state to state to pollinate, the threat will be serious.

"The fear is that we have certain beekeepers in this area that are taking their european bees from the eastern sea board, parking them in California in the almond groves next to africanized colonies and then bringing them right back in our local neighborhoods," says Hester.

He also warns landowners to be careful of what kinds of bees pollinate their crops. "I think any landowner should make sure that whoever they're allowing to put bees on their property has not been sending their bees into other places and states where there are africanized colonies," says Hester. If the bees aren't blocked early, South Georgians will have to adjust to some new annoying residents.

"I think they're right on our doorsteps, if they're not here already," says Hester. But beekeepers like Terry Hester are trying to make sure they don't get a chance to move in.

The state Department of Agriculture will hold a meeting with several bee shippers later this month to talk about the potential threat of africanized bees here in South Georgia.

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