Argentine Beekeepers' Magazine


November 25th, 2022

Versión en Castellano

(Espacio Apícola, November 25th, 2022) In the final note of her doctoral dissertation at the University of California San Diego, Daniela Zárate wondered if the name of Africanized bees should be changed and said:

"While the term "Africanized" honey bee (AHB) has become commonplace, this epithet is perhaps due for revision. Africanized as a descriptor is frustratingly broad and fails to accurately reflect the diversity of geographic lineages that an admixed honey bee of the American continents can encompass. In addition, there exist more than a dozen African honey bee subspecies exhibiting a diverse range of behavioral and life history traits distinct from those of the subspecies A. m. scutellata from which the AHB originated.

In stark contrast to the elevated defensiveness of A. m. scutellata and the AHB, some African subspecies are known for their gentle characters (e.g. Apis mellifera monticola, the Ethiopian highlands honey bee) and so the term Africanized can lead to problematic generalizations regarding the larger African honey bee clade (Avalos et al., 2017; Ruttner, 1988). In fact, it can be argued that the use of the term Africanized reflects a larger Western cultural consciousness that perceives the African continent as a monolithic entity and associates negative characteristics (e.g. aggression, violence, otherness) with African identity (Schwalbe et al., 2000; Welch, 2007).

Thus, the term "Africanized" is offensive to many people and we should move away from the use of the term "Africanized" because it resonates with racist human tropes. Considering this, a few researchers have begun to move away from the Africanized label to one of greater phylogenetic specificity: "scutellata-hybrid" (Calfee et al., 2020). This discussion raises valuable questions about the use of language in scientific discourse and how our language should evolve to reflect growth in scientific and cultural spheres. As we continue to learn more about these hybrids, a new name could counter the stereotypes evoked by the term "Africanized" and increase acceptance for using the beneficial traits of these bees to strengthen California beekeeping and agriculture."
(Zarate, D. (2022). Genomic Admixture and Nest Defense Behavior in the Africanized Honey Bee of the American Continents (Doctoral dissertation, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SAN DIEGO)

In addition to the cultural value of this intervention, the note arrives in Argentina at a time when in some works the meaning of the term "Africanization" is confused. As the note points out, Africanized bee refers exclusively to the hybrids that were formed from the dispersal, or in the case of northern Argentina an aggressive invasion, of hybrids of European bees with Apis mellifera scutellata throughout the American continent and it do not involves the African species Apis mellifera intermissa that would have been brought to the continent by the Spaniards together with the European dark honeybee (Apis mellifera mellifera) and the Iberian honeybee (Apis mellifera iberiensis), a hybrid between the European and intermissa and which is found at least in Argentina and Chile and very probably in the rest of the continent that has had a Portuguese or Spanish presence.

In the photo (Espacio Apícola No. 50 - February 2002), a few Apis mellifera scutellata (yellow) bees giving in to the invasion of Apis mellifera capensis (dark and even smaller) in a nucleus in front of the house of the beekeeper Dirk de Klerk, in Pretoria, South Africa very close to where Warwick Kerr would have taken the queen bees, believed for years to be A.m. adansoni and who were eventually identified as A.m. scutellata and that he brought to Brazil in the late 1950s.

Information generated by "Espacio Apícola" the Argentine Beekeepers' Magazine


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