Puerto Rico’s hurricane destruction may have doomed the world’s honey bees?
Posted on January 5, 2018
You probably have heard of “killer bees”. In the 1970’s there was even a string of movies dedicated to sensationalizing these aggressive insects. But killer bees are not some made up Hollywood monster—they are actually overly-aggressive honey bees that originate from Africa.
Here’s an excerpt from an article in Newsweek detailing the one-of-a-kind Puerto Rican “gentle” killer bees and the dangers they now face following Hurricane Maria:
In 1956, 26 swarms of aggressive African bees escaped from their experimental quarantine in Brazil and bred haphazardly with wild honey bees. This mixing resulted in what is commonly known as the killer bee. Before long, the hybrids expanded beyond Brazil, flying north into other countries.
In 1994, a small killer bee population crossed the Caribbean (probably stowed away on a boat from Mexico) and made it to Puerto Rico. They infiltrated the domesticated colonies of European bees, toppled the queen and installed an Africanized one in her stead.
In the years that followed, beekeepers there noticed something very odd: These once-scary bees stopped attacking humans. In just 30 years, they made an evolutionary leap and became a strong, thriving honey bee population that was also gentle toward beekeepers. There is no other known instance of this happening anywhere else in the world.
In the past two decades researchers have realized that these gentle bees are still aggressive enough toward parasites to withstand a particularly nasty one called the Varroa mite. A bee that could withstand death by parasite could go a long way toward stopping colony decline.
In September 2017 Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico; laying waste to the island, leveling its infrastructure and causing the largest blackout in American history.
The gentle Puerto Rican bees are conceivably the strongest and most adaptable to ever exist, but even they may not ultimately survive the aftermath of Maria. If they die, the global honey bee population may ultimately die too. For now, our collective fate is uncertain...
To read this Newsweek article in its entirety, visit: Puerto Rico’s hurricane destruction may have doomed the world’s honey bees.