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Thomas Martin
I am a commercial beekeeper and professional apicultural researcher.
I am a commercial beekeeper and professional apicultural researcher.


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Fiery collision: Truck filled with chicken collides with truck hauling bees
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — A semi transporting frozen chicken collided with a truck carrying bees Monday in Southern California, instantly charring the chicken and setting free many honey bees.
The truck with the chickens burst into flames, but the driver escaped with minor injuries, as did the driver of the truck with the bees.
The crash happened at about 7 a.m. on Interstate-10 and closed the westbound lanes during heavy traffic.
A bee keeper was called in to retrieve as many as possible.
Police say the truck carrying the chickens clipped the back of the truck carrying the bees.
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Massive honey bee hives found in Port Charlotte neighborhood

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla.-There’s quite a buzz in one Port Charlotte neighborhood. Thousands of bees swarming in a backyard on Augusta Avenue. Neighbors say they were helping tear down a fence for the woman who lives in the home when they overturned a board that was full of honey bees. Neighbors tell WINK News they’ve never seen anything like this. One man tells us he was stung 12 times.
“I saw a bunch of bees coming out and I saw one and then I saw a bunch of them and then I saw a swarm of them coming towards me and I ran and they chased me I ran all the way across the street,” said Richard Bierman Jr. Neighbors say they’re worried about the safety of four small children that live in the home. “We didn’t get to see much cause we had to take off the sky was blacked out with bees,” said Cory Stewart, one of the men who found the hive. Charlotte County Environmental services tell WINK News there’s nothing they can do since it’s not on public property.
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Arizona was once a hotbed of the honeybee industry, a place where bees were so plentiful they were sent by the truckload to states such as California, North Dakota and Washington to pollinate cherries, apples and almonds.Up until the mid-1990s, more than 20,000 beekeepers kept honeybees in Arizona.That number has dwindled to about 5,600 beekeepers today, a result of a ravaged honeybee population. Mites, pesticides, drought, disease and a devastating phenomenon called colony collapse disorder have all left deep marks.But nothing has dealt a blow as nearly fatal as the emergence 30 years ago of the Africanized bee, a small, ferocious foe that strikes fear in Arizonans' hearts and sent beekeepers packing to the far reaches of the state and beyond.Arizona beekeepers have learned to take extraordinary steps to prevent the still prevalent African bee from taking over their backyard hives. The aggressive Africanized bee enters hives occupied by gentle European bees and takes over by killing the queen and rapidly repopulating.
Despite the challenges, the industry is making somewhat of a comeback in Arizona, say the men and women who nurture hives in their backyards. Beekeepers, people as industrious as their charges, have developed an array of solutions to help keep Arizona buzzing.
The mite is all but gone, and careful, hardworking beekeepers can prevent their hives from becoming Africanized, often with the help of Italian or other gentle queen bees.
“You have to be on your toes to combat them,” Dowdy says of the aggressive Africanized bees who have taken over many of the hives of Euro- pean bees in Arizona. Preventive measures include adding new European queens to hives and moving hives to areas with no water.(Photo: Mark Henle/The Republic)

"We've solved a lot of the problems," said Virl Dowdy, 79, considered by many to be the dean of Arizona beekeepers.Such a comeback is good for Arizona, as beekeeping can be lucrative and funnel more money back into the local economy. On a larger, ecological scale, beekeeping is also good for the planet. Without bees, there is no pollination. Without pollination, plants and flowers will become extinct, too.African bee devastated Arizona's honeybee business
The African bee, also called the Killer bee, arrived in Arizona about 1993, experts say. It's not so much a freak of nature as a freak of overzealous breeding, a Brazil laboratory experiment gone awry when some queens escaped.Africanized queens mate three times more often than their European counterparts -- they even mate in the air -- and will repopulate a hive, rendering it useless as beekeepers can't harvest the honey without getting attacked. Africanized bees are also unusable for pollinating crops for profit.The first Arizona fatality involving the aggressive bees was in 1995, when African bees fatally stung an 88-year-old Apache Junction woman. The most recent fatally was Oct. 8, when 800,000 killer bees in Douglas killed one man and injured three others.By the mid-1990s, African bees had terrified Arizonans and dominated many a hive. The state's last bee inspector declared the entire state Africanized.
"The African bee scared everybody out," beekeeper David Meyer of Phoenix said. "A lot of cities had knee jerk reactions and banned bees."Beekeepers moved their hives to less populous places like Klondike, Wilcox, Buckeye, and even California and Oregon.
"This used to be one of the largest producing bee states," said Scott Clark, who owns the Beesville Bee Farm in Phoenix and makes Wild Flower Honey. "When Africanized bees came, we lost places to keep bees."Arizona beekeepers ship bees to farms for profit
Before the near death knell, Arizona bees were shipped off by the plane and truckload to pollinate crops in other states, then shipped back to their Arizona owners."Most beekeepers produced more bees than honey," said Clark. "That was the big income."It's still income, according to Dowdy and some others, but on a smaller scale.
Central California almond farmers now pay $200 per hive to pollinate crops starting in February. Less lucrative opportunities are available in Oregon, Washington, Utah, Washington, Idaho and North Dakota.
"One million hives go to Central California to pollinate almonds,'' said Meyer, who owns Mican-Meyer Farms. "About once a year, a semi-trailer (carrying bees) tips over, and bees get out. That's what that is."The bees come back to their Arizona owners, then go on to pollinate another crop, Meyer said. Beekeepers get about $75 per hive from Yuma-area cotton and melon farmers, Meyer said.
Italian queens help hives To prevent African bees from taking over hives, Dowdy said, Arizona beekeepers must regularly re-queen their hives with expensive European queens."You have to be on your toes to combat them," Dowdy, who has kept bees for 40 years, said of African bees.Dowdy moves his hives to areas with no natural or irrigated water, because African bees are unlikely to be drawn there. Then Dowdy hauls in his own water."Otherwise, African bees will take over (the hives)," Dowdy said.Variations of this practice are becoming the norm in Arizona, but beekeepers acknowledge buying the imported queens is expensive."It's a real hit to the bottom line," Meyer said.
Colony Collapse Disorder
But there is something else occurring called Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon in which all the bees in a hive disappear.
Research from the Harvard School of Public Health supports a popular theory that a certain class of insecticides, neonicotinoids, seems to be the blame.
Colony Collapse Disorder is one of many challenges beekeepers in Arizona are grappling with. Beekeepers in the state have developed support systems and groups that allow them to exchange information and ideas.
At a recent monthly meeting of the Beekeepers Association of Central America, about 50 Phoenix-area beekeepers gathered to share tips and gain inspiration about their shared interest. The group's swelling attendance reflects the growing health of Arizona's honeybees, and the topics discussed reflect the intricacies of keeping bees.
A young man's earnest voice cut through the crowd. The bees of his third hive -- his biggest, strongest -- had begun to die. Instead of leaving the hive and flying off, they dropped dead to the ground.
But it's the biggest and the strongest bees that forage the farthest, several of the old-timers responded. Chances are, they foraged to a field that had been sprayed with pesticide or herbicide.
"When you aerial spray everything, because you have now planted a crop that is resistant to herbicide, that is not a good thing," Meyer said.
Bees another canary in the coal mine
Bees are an essential part of the world food supply. Nearly 80 percent of all commercial crops are pollinated by bees, according to most estimates.
"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man," Albert Einstein is quoted as saying.
In "Silent Spring," published in 1963, author Rachel Carlson wrote about the impact of synthetic pesticides on insects and the food chain.
In China, there are so few bee hives that instead of using bees to pollinate crops, some farmers use workers wielding pipe cleaners.
"But hand pollinators do not make beeswax," said beekeeper Diane Campoy of Laveen. "Hand pollinators do not make honey. We need bees."
In Arizona today, more people who come across swarms or hives of unwanted bees are asking to have them removed without harm, Meyer said.
"Bees get such a bad rap," Campoy said. "But when you think about it, bees are the only insects that actually feed man."
On Alice Avenue between Central and 7th Avenues, Dave Krause's obvious affection for bees has proved contagious. Several neighbors have joined him in keeping backyard hives. Central Phoenix's plentiful water supply and mature and varied vegetation are a bee mecca.
"I love handling bees, even Africanized bees," said Krause, 73. "It does take a special person to work with bees. You have to have a determination, and a mentor."
He was sitting with his mentor, Dowdy, in Dowdy's old-fashioned country kitchen in Central Phoenix, when the phone rang. It was a backyard beekeeper. Dowd receives about a dozen such calls a day.
"Here in Arizona we've solved a lot of the problems," said Dowdy. "I think China could learn a little from us."
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An Arizona man died and another was injured when a swarm of 800,000 angry bees escaped an attic and began attacking them.
According to KGUN9, the men—both landscapers—were working on a Douglas, AZ home when the bees attacked. One man was killed and another was transported to a nearby hospital, wherehe remains in critical condition. Beekeepers that later examined the home said the bees had maintained a hive there for at least ten years.
It's the second major bee attack in Arizona in the last month—about 10,000 bees swarmed intoa Surprise, AZ couple's home in September, forcing firefighters to douse the house in foam.
"This (outdoor) heater had been blown over and was lying through the bushes down in there," said Dan Norlin told KPHO. "I got it up and along with it came about 10,000 bees."
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