A fourth swarm of Africanized bees has been found about 80 miles outside the Kern County quarantine area, a top state official revealed late Wednesday.
Discovery of the swarm in the Sierra Nevada near Lake Isabella caught state officials completely by surprise and it is expected that the quarantine area--which presently covers 462 square miles northwest of Bakersfield--will now have to be greatly expanded, the official, who asked not to be named, said.
Existence of the new swarm surfaced when a small, independent beekeeper told state officials that he captured a swarm of wild bees in the Lost Hills area in January, long before it was known that Africanized bees were present in California. The first swarm was discovered in late June and two more hives have since been found in the Lost Hills area.
The apiarist, who the state official did not identify, said he took the bees to Lake Isabella, about 50 miles northeast of Bakersfield. He said the bees were very aggressive and that the original swarm propagated at least one additional colony, which escaped.
When the beekeeper heard about the June discovery of Africanized bees he contacted state officials, who sampled his hives. On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture bee laboratory in Baton Rouge, La., notified California authorities that they were, in fact, Africanized bees.
The bees are far more dangerous than the European strain common in North America because of their propensity to attack humans and animals.