WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE COMMERCIAL BEEKEEPING INDUSTRY IN ARIZONA AFTER THE AFRICAN BEES ARRIVED?
African bees have displaced our Arizona wild bee population. After their arrival, they also quickly displaced our domestic commercial beehives. It was a shock to many commercial beekeepers just how quickly they did this and most professional beekeepers were caught off guard and were not prepared. In the early years after African bees entered Arizona, they devastated the commercial beekeeping industry. Honey production and moving beehives to orchards and fields for the purposes of pollination was brought to a standstill. Some of the reasons why were and still are:
1. African Bees are very difficult to work with and much more aggressive than domestic honeybees.
2. African bees build honeycomb and make honey, but most of their honey production goes into brood development that supports their tendency to swarm frequently and infest areas quickly.
3. They are unreliable foragers. For example, if you put them in the middle of a Mesquite forest in full bloom, they still may decide to forage other materials that are less palatable. As a result, you cannot predict the quality and taste of the honey.
Also, to recondition an Africanized bee colony takes a great deal of work, time, expense and constant vigilance by a professional beekeeper. Most commercial beekeeping companies will not take the time or suffer the expense to do it at all. If one of their beehives becomes Africanized, they will destroy the hive and start all over again. Otherwise, professional beekeepers will have to remove the African Queen, replace her with a European honeybee queen and wait for months for the beehive to be domesticated again.
Is Our Arizona Bee Population Dying? What Is Colony Collapse Disorder?
African beehives are resistant to the Nosema virus that is attributed to cause Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Our Phoenix dry desert environment does not support the Nosema virus. African bees themselves swarm frequently to avoid disease and Varro Mite infestation as part of their survival strategy. As a result, Africanized honeybees swarm frequently and will infest an area with abundant forage and water sources very quickly throughout the year. Arizona is the only state in the US that has been declared completely Africanized from border to border in our feral wild bee population by the US Dept. of Agriculture. Phoenix is particularly vulnerable to African bee infestation because of the abundant flowering plants and trees and water sources available in Phoenix residential areas. Since Arizona does not have a wide variety of predators that help control the wild feral bee population, the only environmental control on our wild feral African bee population is drought and because of drought, lack of available forage in the desert.