Agriculture officials busy trying to keep ‘killer bees’ at bay in area

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 5, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Africanized honeybees commonly known as &uot;killer bees&uot; won’t be able to sneak into Natchez.

The Bureau of Plant Industry with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce has placed traps near the port area as a precaution to catch any bees coming into the state.

Five brown paper box traps that contain a lure to attract the bees have been placed close to the river. An inspector will routinely check the traps for Africanized honeybees. If the bees are found, they will be exterminated and authorities will begin work to determine where they came from.

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The closest reported case of the bees is just west of Houston, Texas, but state entomologist Harry Fulton said boats and barges have been found to carry the insect in the past.

&uot;We are being proactive,&uot; he said. &uot;We don’t want them to sneak up on us.&uot;

Fulton said he did not expect the bees to make their way into Mississippi any time soon.

The bees were first introduced into the United States in southern Texas in 1990 from South America and have now expanded farther into the state and through New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and into California.

&uot;In the last five years they don’t seem to have moved,&uot; Fulton said. &uot;The indications are that they may stay where they are.&uot;

Fulton said a 1990 scientists’ prediction said the bees may eventually move eastward into the Southern states.

Craig Roussel, director of horticulture and quarantine programs for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture said Louisiana is monitoring the bees closely. The state has traps only in deep water ports such as Lake Charles and New Iberia and as far up the Mississippi River as Baton Rouge.

&uot;The purpose of trap line is basically to let us know so we can let people know they have arrived&uot; not for prevention, Roussel said.

However, Louisiana is concentrating its efforts on the Louisiana-Texas border, where the bees may begin to encroach into the state.

Roussel said Louisiana is watching to see if they migrate in the state.

&uot;There’s no way to prevent them from entering,&uot; he said. But they are watching the Texas-Louisiana line most closely near Shreveport, north of the Toledo Bend Reservoir. If they do migrate in, that is where Roussel suspects they will come because the closest siting of the bees is west of Shreveport.

Though Fulton said he did not like to use the word &uot;killer&uot; the bees are more dangerous than regular bees.

&uot;They tend to get more agitated as a group and will sting you more in a short period of time,&uot; he said.

The Africanized bee’s sting is no stronger than that of a normal honeybee, but it is the repeated stinging by a large group that most humans and animals cannot survive.

Human deaths after Africanized honeybee stings have been recorded in Texas and Arizona. The bees do not seek people to attack, but are easily agitated, Fulton said.