Africanized honey bees are one of the most successfully invasive insects ever. From their initial introduction in São Paulo, Brazil in 1956, they spread quickly north throughout South America into Central America and Southwestern United States. They are a hybrid resultant from crosses between two subspecies, the African honey bee and the European honey bee. They were brought into Brazil because they would be better adapted to the tropical climate than the temperate European honey bees. These Africanized honey bees (AHB) are more defensive, reproduce faster, and utilize a wider range of nest sites compared to European derived honey bees. These characteristics bring them into conflict with humans in urban and rural areas, and their uncontrolled spread in natural areas can negatively affect wildlife.
Africanized honey bees are competing with many parrots species for their nest sites. Due to habitat destruction, nest sites are limited and competition for these sites reduces reproductive success. The bees like the same natural tree cavities that the parrots do, bringing them into direct competition for this limited resource. Additionally, parrot conservation programs that use artificial nest boxes have reported close to 100% occupancy by AHB, leaving no place for the parrots to nest. The bees sometimes move into a box when there are nestlings and kill all the nestlings. Lastly, AHB are very defensive, making checking nest boxes or sites very dangerous for biologists when bees are nearby.
To reduce this nest site competition we use a “push-pull” method. We treat nest cavities with an insecticide to “push” bees away and simultaneously provide pheromone baited bee boxes to “pull” bees toward. Bees captured in trap boxes can be moved to local farms and managed for honey and propolis. We have used this method to help parrot conservation programs in Brazil, Guatemala, Bonaire and South Africa with great success.