Honey Bee ID Lab Closed

Since 1990, Texas A&M University’s Honey Bee Identification Lab has provided identification and characterization of honey bees.   As of the end of May, the Honey Bee ID lab is closed.

According to Paul Jackson, with the Apiary Inspection Service, budget cuts left their department no choice but to end the program.  Long-time employee Lisa Bradley was cut as a result.

The laboratory provided analysis of honey bee genetics, and for many years had been the authority that documented the incidence and spread of Africanized honey bees spreading across the state. After a human or domestic animal stinging incident, the lab would verify the identity of the bee strain and document the incident.

Africanized honey bees arrived in Texas in 1990. After an initial rapid spread through the southern portions of the state, Africanized bees began interbreeding with their calmer European cousins, influencing the genetics and behavior of honey bees throughout the state. As a result, most honey bees in Texas today share at least some of the aggressiveness of the African bee.

Because Africanized honey bees are nearly identical in appearance to domesticated (European) honey bees, identification requires very precise measuring equipment. At least 25 to 50 worker bees from the colony are needed to accurately test whether the colony is Africanized. Individual bees cannot be reliably identified.

Anyone wanting to confirm the identity of honey bees, or wanting to know the degree of Africanization of honey bees, will now have to go elsewhere for help. According to Jackson, the closest facility with the capacity to identify bees now is the Honey Bee Research Unit maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Weslaco, TX.  Insects in the City publication Ent-3007, which explained how to submit samples for identification, has been discontinued.

Good luck to Lisa and thanks for her many years providing honey bee identifications for the state of Texas.

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