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Killer Bees: Africanized Honey Bee in the Americas [Paperback]

Mark L. Winston
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

23 April 1992
Since their introduction into southern Brazil in the 1950s, Africanized - or "killer" - bees have acquired a reputation among the general public that is straight out of a science fiction movie. As colonies of these feisty bees have gradually moved north, expanding their range into Mexico and, most recently, Texas, lurid reports of their sometimes fatal stinging behaviour and aggressive swarming have commanded media attention and alarmed local communities. In "Killer Bees" Mark Winston seeks to restore balance to this picture by examining the biology of the Africanized honey bee and tracing the predicted impact of the bee on North American agriculture and beekeeping. In hindsight, importing these insects into the Americas was ill-advised, since their interaction with managed bees and their rapid dispersal have resulted in a number of intractable problems. In biological terms however, the bees are a triumphant success, having proved themselves ideally suited to their New World environment. Winston draws on his own extensive fieldwork in French Guiana, Peru, and Venezuela as well as the professional literature to describe the life and habits of Africanized bees. Against this background he discusses potentially effective responses to their proliferation. Given the failure of barrier and eradication programmes, and the likelihood that Africanized bees will spread throughout at least the southern third of the United States, a coordinated approach on the federal, state, and local levels is advisable, if difficult to achieve. During the now irreversible transition to "post-Africanized" beekeeping, careful management policies hold the most promise for resolving economic and health issues.

Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (23 April 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067450352X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674503526
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 14.6 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,516,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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prescription of what Winston thinks beekeepers, politicians and even journalists ought to do to adjust to their presence.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Evil twin 30 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Killer Bees: The Africanized Honey Bee in the Americas" by Mark Winston is a book about the so-called killer bee, one of the most notorious insects of the Western hemisphere. More formally known as the Africanized honeybee, this dangerous insect established itself in Brazil in 1956, and has gradually spread to all tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. Due to its aggressive nature, the bee has gotten quite a reputation and become a "pop insect", featured as a villain in countless horror flicks and novels, not to mention sensationalized media reports. But yes, the Africanized honeybee *is* dangerous, and have killed humans, pets, livestock and - most importantly - European honeybees, creating havoc in Latin American beekeeping. The European honeybee is the "nice" honeybee we are used to, and has been introduced all over the world to boost honey production. The Africanized honeybee or killer bee is descended from the African honeybee. It should be noted that both European and African honeybees belong to the same species, Apis mellifera ("Western honeybee"). This means that killer bees and "normal" honeybees are difficult to physically tell apart, despite major differences in behavioural patterns. It's almost as if the killer bee is the evil twin of the European honeybee...

Winston's book was published in 1992, before the killer bee had established itself in the southern United States. The author is a biologist, and the book is to some extent based on field research in French Guiana and Venezuela. The main point of "Killer Bees" is to asses the future impact of this invasive species on U.S. beekeeping and honey production. This part of the book feels dated. The chapters on killer bee behaviour are more interesting.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative Research & Explanation 2 Jun 2006
By KTF - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The research on killer bees has advanced a tiny bit more since this book was written. However, this is a great explanation of the Africanized Honey Bee. It dispells a lot of myths and explains a lot of truths since this was written by the person who actually did the field research. I would love to see more research and books written on this topic so that the public would get the correct information about these creatures and we could realize the beneficial traits these bees may offer.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book Explaining the "Killer Bee" phenomenon 28 Sep 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book ranks as one of the best books I have read on the subject of Africanized Honey Bees. (aka Killer Bees) This book is easily understood by the layperson, yet full of great data for the serious student of this exotic pest. From Texas to California, we have to learn how to live with this creature - it is not going away! I strongly recommend this book. While I have been teaching classes on the subject of Africanized Honey Bees for the better part of a decade, I still keep this book handy as a reference, and recommend it to my students.
5.0 out of 5 stars Evil twin 29 Jun 2013
By Ashtar Command - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Killer Bees: The Africanized Honey Bee in the Americas" by Mark Winston is a book about the so-called killer bee, one of the most notorious insects of the Western hemisphere. More formally known as the Africanized honeybee, this dangerous insect established itself in Brazil in 1956, and has gradually spread to all tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. Due to its aggressive nature, the bee has gotten quite a reputation and become a "pop insect", featured as a villain in countless horror flicks and novels, not to mention sensationalized media reports. But yes, the Africanized honeybee *is* dangerous, and have killed humans, pets, livestock and - most importantly - European honeybees, creating havoc in Latin American beekeeping. The European honeybee is the "nice" honeybee we are used to, and has been introduced all over the world to boost honey production. The Africanized honeybee or killer bee is descended from the African honeybee. It should be noted that both European and African honeybees belong to the same species, Apis mellifera ("Western honeybee"). This means that killer bees and "normal" honeybees are difficult to physically tell apart, despite major differences in behavioural patterns. It's almost as if the killer bee is the evil twin of the European honeybee...

Winston's book was published in 1992, before the killer bee had established itself in the southern United States. The author is a biologist, and the book is to some extent based on field research in French Guiana and Venezuela. The main point of "Killer Bees" is to asses the future impact of this invasive species on U.S. beekeeping and honey production. This part of the book feels dated. The chapters on killer bee behaviour are more interesting. Deadly or not, I admit I was fascinated by the offensive tactics of the Africanized bees...

The legendary aggressiveness of these bees is an evolutionary adaptation to their original homeland, Africa, where honeybees are under constant threat from predators, including the honey badger and (ironically) man. Killer bees can pursue a real or perceived attacker for up to one kilometre, and attack virtually anything that gets in their way in the process. The bees spread by swarming or absconding, and can fly considerable distances until settling down on a new nest site. The more docile European honeybees (the "normal" honeybees we are used to) are no match for the killer bees. The latter either attack and take over European hives, or mate with European bees, gradually taking over their gene pool. Beekeepers might discover, much to their shock and dismay, that their hives have been "Africanized" and very difficult to manage. Another trait facilitating their rapid spread is that killer bees can build nests essentially everywhere, both in the open and inside cavities. Some colonies have been found on ships. Winston's research team kept empty beehives at their research station, only to witness how a large swarm of killer bees entered through the open window, taking the hives by storm.

Apparently, killer bees *can* be managed, and the original African bee is a great honey producer in South Africa. They have also been more or less successfully managed in Brazil, which has a fairly advanced beekeeping industry. In other Latin American nations, the arrival of the killer bee has led to disaster, as poor beekeepers were forced to abandon their "Africanized" hives. Due to their aggressive nature, managed killer bee colonies must be kept in isolated areas, far away from any human habitation or livestock, but this is often impossible in regions with poor roads and few vehicles for transportation. Beekeepers must also use protective equipment, which may be expensive and is difficult to wear in a tropical climate. Interestingly, killer bees are quite docile when swarming, making it possible for Winston and his "killer bee team" to carry out their research without too much protective gear. One photo shows a man dressed only in shorts (the author?) looking on as a swarm of killer bees enters the research station!

"Killer Bees" is directed at a general audience, and very easy to read. It seems to be one of the few popularized book on Africanized killer bees, and is refreshingly free from the sensationalism that often mars this subject. I therefore give it five stars. Next week on Ashtar Command Channel: the curse of the fire ants!
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