As if having to live through one of the most devastating hurricanes we’ve seen hit the United States wasn’t bad enough, the residents of Louisiana also had to deal with some uninvited guests that hitched a ride on the storm. We are still dealing with the massive damage that this city-destroyer caused, but what many people don’t know is that it didn’t just destroy the land and homes that it hit, but that Hurricane Katrina also brought insects pests with her to invade Louisiana in the aftermath. This wasn’t just some extra mosquitos either. One insect that is universally feared and terrifies any and all that it comes in contact with is the killer bee, also known as the Africanized honey bee. This was the gift this particular storm brought along with her. I think this is one present the residents of this state would rather return.
It was as they were recovering from the hurricane that residents of the flood-damaged New Orleans discovered they had yet another problem they were going to have to deal with. As people were going around and fixing all of the damage the hurricane caused, they began to find swarms of killer bees inhabiting the vacant buildings and other areas. One storm-wrecked home that was confirmed to be infested with killer bees was surrounded by traps set by agriculturalists in a half-mile radius. Initially, the bees drove away the contractors that had been hired to tear the house down, but then they also scared off the beekeepers that were called in to take care of them. In the end, only the brave mosquito workers were able to kill the bees, which were then confirmed by the state agricultural department to be hybrids that did, indeed, carry the strain of the aggressive Africanized honey bees. Officials believed that the bees they found were likely descendants of killer bees that had stolen a ride on a ship that came to New Orleans.
Africanized honey bees are the unwanted lovechild that resulted from an experiment in Brazil to increase their production of honey. One swarm of these much more aggressive, hybrid bees managed to escape the lab the experiment was taking place in in 1957 and, of course, headed north in our direction. Unfortunately, as these bees mated with other native bees, the increased aggression from the African parent’s strain did not decrease, and the offspring born with this strain (even ones far removed from the original hybrids) are just as aggressive as the originals. And so, many more descendants, all born with this increased aggression, have proliferated and spread to inspire terror in all who come in contact with them. Talk about a science experiment gone south…or, rather, north!
Have you ever seen Africanized honey bees? How much do you think natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina contribute to their spread?