Middle TN beekeepers worry about possibility of 'killer' bees - WSMV Channel 4

Middle TN beekeepers worry about possibility of 'killer' bees

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COLUMBIA, TN (WSMV) -

Beekeepers in Columbia are worried they had a run-in with Africanized, or "killer" bees. The bees' attacks can be deadly, and a video of a confrontation with the colony has sparked some fears.

The beekeepers called on the state for help, when one of their colonies got incredibly aggressive, but it was perhaps a bit too late.

"And when we opened it this morning, we were ferociously attacked by hundreds, if not maybe thousands of bees, that just literally covered us," said one beekeeper in the video posted to YouTube.

When they used wasp killer, it only got worse.

But as bad as it seemed, state bee expert Michael Studer said, it was probably not what they thought.

"It doesn't look like your typical Africanized bee colony," said Studer, State Apiarist with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. "I don't think it is."

Studer said it seems more likely the colony did not have a queen, or was agitated.

"European honeybees, like the ones we've got down here, if you went down there and kicked one of these colonies over, and stood there like we are right now, and picked up and put stuff back on, you'd probably get 200 or 300 stings," Studer said. "Because they'd be mad, and they'd be defending their home, and it wouldn't be a good home. If you did that to an Africanized honeybee, every bee in there would come out and get you."

Studer knows. Last year, he studied the first colony of Africanized bees discovered in East Tennessee.

"It's a lot different than the video shows," he said.

Soon enough, Studer said to expect them here.

"It may be 10 years from now. It may be 50 years from now," he said.

In the meantime, beekeepers who suspect something serious, should call the state, before taking matters into their own hands, just in case.

"If you do that with Africanized bees, they're all going to come out after you. You know, they would've been covered up and stung," Studer said.

You really can't tell the difference between Africanized bees and the traditional type, by looking at them.

Africanized bees can be more aggressive, though, and usually make hives in smaller areas, less than five gallons in size.

The state sent samples of the Columbia colony to a USDA lab in Arizona for a DNA workup, and it could take several months to get the results.

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