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Department Press Release
05-05-99

Laurence Cutts
(352) 372-3505 x 128

Crawford Announces Destruction of African Bee Hive

JACKSONVILLE – Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford announced today the detection and destruction of two swarms of African bees found near the port at Blount Island in Jacksonville.

"We're pleased that our regular inspection of bait hives revealed the presence of these swarms quickly before harm came to anyone," Crawford said.

The two swarms of African bees–sometimes called ‘killer bees' for their aggressive defense of their hives–were found in bait hives placed by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services apiary inspectors in a container yard that holds cargo shipped from Puerto Rico, which has an established African bee population. The African bee detection program is jointly operated by FDACS and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Inspectors this week will place an additional 24 bait hives throughout the port. The port at Blount Island in Jacksonville is about one mile wide and two miles long, and previously held 24 of Duval County's 27 bait hives. About 500 bait hives are in place throughout the state for the detection of African bees, primarily in port areas, along Interstate-10 and on the Florida/Alabama border.

The swarms were detected on April 23 by an FDACS apiary inspector, who submitted the bees for testing by FDACS scientists and Dr. Glenn Hall, associate professor of honeybee genetics with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Both confirmed the bees were indeed African in origin.

This detection marks the first time in Florida that African bee swarms have been detected inside bait hives. Previous swarms have been reported by ship's crews or dockworkers, who have been alerted to look for such swarms by USDA and Customs officials. Swarms have been found 17 other times since 1983, when a swarm of unknown origin was detected on a ship in the port of Miami.

Agriculture inspectors will be checking all known managed bee hives in the Jacksonville area, and officials request that any citizens in the area who either keep bees or may have seen wild bees to please contact Laurence Cutts of the Division of Plant Industry in Gainesville at (352) 372-3505 x128.

There has been no change in the eastward movement of African bees in the US in nearly four years—they remain just south of Houston, Texas and range as far west as California.

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