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Valley beekeeper taking the 'killer' out of killer Africanized bees

Posted at 5:12 PM, Nov 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-14 21:21:09-05

When they attack, some bees live up to their name. 

“I definitely wouldn’t be doing this without a veil if they were Africanized,” said beekeeper Roy Arnold, as he held a honeycomb full of bees.

Arnold says he’s not only trying to change their nature, but their entire DNA. 

“They came from Brazil, through Mexico, and then into the United States in 1993,” said Arnold. 

He says since then, the Africanized bee population not only grew, but flourished. 

It's also lead to more encounters with people; many of which end in trips to the emergency room. 

“The inevitable is here, you can’t change it, all we can change is the perception and some of the genetics,” said Arnold. 

Beekeepers like Arnold are actually rehabilitating entire colonies of killer bees. 

It all starts with re-queening the hive with the common European honey bee. 

“When I go and I re-queen a hive, I can normally change the temperament of that hive in two months,” said Arnold. 

He says the swap works because European honey bees are far less aggressive. 

Once the new queen is introduced, her future offspring will no longer contain the Africanized bee traits. 

“You don’t kill the Africanized gene, you actually breed it out,” said Arnold. 

And it works 70 percent of the time on the first try. 

The more hives that go through this process, the better the chances that bee drinking out of your pool or flying around your garden won’t attack. 

The Arizona Honeybee Festival is donating a portion of their proceeds to help backyard beekeepers with this effort. 

If you would like to learn more about bees and how they impact our daily lives and local economy, experts like Arnold will be on hand this weekend at the Honeybee Festival at Agave Farm off Central Avenue. 

The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday with lots of demonstrations for both adults and kids.