A Bee in Man’s Bonnet

Have you heard of the Africanised Honey Bee? The Queen explains.

January 27, 2014 07:24 pm | Updated May 13, 2016 12:43 pm IST - chennai



It is true that Man is a mean meddler. Not just a mean one but a greedy manipulator of his environment. His buzzword is “MORE”. The bee in his bonnet is how to get more — more harvest, more milk, more eggs, more honey and in short, more money. If I sound angry and my words are stinging, do pardon me. I believe I have the right to be upset.

The beginning

My tale of misfortune goes back to the late 1950’s when an enthusiastic Brazilian scientist imported two dozen or more African honey bee queens. His experiment was to cross-breed them with European ones so that a superior, well-adjusted tropical and high honey-yielding variety could be obtained. However, things went wrong when someone accidentally let the Cleopatras and Shebas out. That started a chain of events that has brought misery on man and on us, the Africanised Honey Bee.

When the queens flew out, they mated with the local European drones to produce the hybrid AHB. In appearance we look like our African ancestors. About three quarters of an inch long, brown with black stripes and quite fuzzy. Our behaviour is dynamic. We are adaptable, highly defensive of our hives and we move from one area to another in search of food, which of course, is nectar for carbohydrates and pollen for proteins. Did you know all bees have tiny pollen baskets on their back legs to collect them in? Convenient, hmm? Though we do not make large quantities of honey, we are the bee’s knees as far as pollination of crops and fruit trees are concerned. We have moved in swarms from Brazil to the southern states of the U.S. doing our bit. What hurts us is that we are stigmatised as killer bees. It is all in the perception — are we attacking or defending ourselves from attackers? Why call us killer bees when it is man who is the real killer and destroyer on our planet!

Before I stick the envelope, let me tell you a little about bees in general — things you may not have heard before. Do you know how I became a queen bee? A queen bee lays fertilized eggs, which hatch into female worker bees, and unfertilized ones that become males or drones. Now, you are curious to know how new queens are born, right? Well, any ordinary female worker can become a queen if she is placed in queen cups when still an egg. That means as a hatchling, she is fed exclusively on royal jelly, a nutritious secretion from the mouth glands of female worker bees. Hence, the special larvae get bigger than the others. Soon, the new queens emerge from their cocoons to start a new colony each with one queen, thousands of drones and female worker bees. How true is the cliché, “You are what you eat”!

I could tell you more, but I have to go now. I am not busy as a bee, but my phone is bee-ping. Ha! I have to buzz off.

Africanised Honey Bee (AHB)

Reply from Aristotle

I got a letter from the howler monkey some time ago. I thought that I could share this with you now.

“Everyone has a write to bee on this planet. Weather you bee a bee or weather you bee a bare, you can steak a claim to your own deer sweet home. I have put this thru’ Spell Cheque. I have red it aloud. I find know errors.”

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