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Science / Medicine : Killer Bees Buzz Differently

IN BRIEF

March 13, 1989| From Times staff and wire service reports

How can you tell a killer bee from any other bee? By its buzz, according to researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Scientists Howard T. Kerr and Michael E. Buchanan have developed killer-bee detectors, solving a problem that has worried farmers and beekeepers watching the bees' advance to the Rio Grande. It has been difficult to distinguish the so-called killer bees from others until a swarm suddenly turns aggressive.

But killer bees beat their wings at a different frequency than the common European honey bees, and thus their hum is different. Using noise analysis techniques developed to detect problems in nuclear reactors, the researchers have built portable devices that can hear killer bees coming and sound an alarm.

The killer bees are called africanized bees by entomologists because they resulted from an accidental cross between African queen bees and European honey bees when some African queens escaped from a laboratory in Brazil in the 1950s. The africanized bees are good honey producers but are very aggressive when disturbed and sometimes launch swarming attacks on people and animals.

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