African Engineers: Attack Of The Killer Bees

African Engineers: Attack Of The Killer Bees  

The African honeybee is well known for its aggression. Some queen bees from Tanzania were accidentally released from a research apiary in Brazil in 1957 and crossbred with the local honeybees to produce an extremely aggressive hybrid that caused alarm amongst beekeepers in the USA when the new ‘killer bee,’ as it was soon dubbed by the media, advanced steadily northwards through Central America.   team building singapore,    In the same year, 1957, Ghana gained independence from Britain but it was not until some twenty years later that scientists at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, began to experiment with modern beekeeping with the native African honeybee (apis mellifera scutellata). Although their work was eventually successful, and beekeeping spread to all parts of the country, there was a time along the way when the ‘killer bee’ resisted human interference with frightening ferocity.

The author has described elsewhere how the Technology Consultancy Centre (TCC) of KNUST introduced the Kenyan top-bar hive into Ghana and began training a first generation of beekeepers. The work began in 1977 with the construction of the first beehives. By January 1981, an apiary had been established in the botanical garden of the university and people from all over Ghana were invited to attend a first national workshop on beekeeping. Of the 53 people who attended, 33 were Ghanaians and 20 were members of the United States Peace Corps who had elected to help promote beekeeping in their widespread duty stations. It was to some of the foreign volunteers that the killer bees directed their sternest assault.

Stephen Adjare, the technical officer in charge of beekeeping, promoted his calling with the utmost enthusiasm. He believed that he had scheduled the first visit to the apiary early enough for the cool of the morning to help calm his bees. However, by the time the party arrived in the botanical gardens the sun was well up and Stephen began to worry that it might already be too hot to disturb a hive. Keen to go ahead with his demonstration of honey harvesting, however, he took every precaution available; his helpers were clad from head to foot in appropriate protective clothing and he checked that their hand-held smokers were working effectively.

Stephen ensured that his large audience were positioned well away from the action and the heavy wooden cover was removed while the hive was enveloped in a cloud of smoke. Then a top bar was carefully prised out and held high to reveal the large hanging honeycomb. Stephen’s moment of triumph was brief in the extreme. The lifted honeycomb was followed instantly by a dense swarm of angry bees which ignored their immediate tormentors and descended en-masse on the unprotected spectators.

The workshop delegates had been briefed in advance that if any bees approached them they should walk calmly away, avoiding swatting the bees, and leaving any stings in place to be removed later by trained personnel. Needless to say, the scale and speed of the assault panicked many of the victims and rendered a dignified retreat impossible for all but a few of the TCC’s experienced beekeepers.

It soon became apparent that the attack was focussed on a short slim lady of mature age. Some of her US Peace Corps colleagues found a hosepipe and were soon drenching her in water in a vain attempt to lessen the onslaught. The TCC director quickly backed his Land Rover alongside and the victim was bundled inside for the short journey to the university hospital. Admitted to emergency care, the lady was found to have sustained more than a hundred stings. She was later moved on to Accra where she received further treatment and made a full recovery.

Almost everybody else not clad in a beekeeper’s suit found themselves with beestings on all exposed areas of flesh. Even heavily bearded

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