“Most bees in Mexico are not Africanized,” Explains Enrique on the bus to the apiary. “Many beekeepers work with European honey bees because they are easier to manage, more docile.”
“Oh.” I think. “…shoot.”
For context, let me explain that Africanized honey bees were introduced to Brazil in the 1950’s with the hope of breeding a super-productive tropical bee. They’ve since been dubbed “killer” bees for their defensive behavior, but they also possess a certain resilience, which may allow for minimal-input, organic beekeeping. And that’s what I’m here for, right?
I ask Enrique to clarify. The bees here are European? He laughs. Of course they are!
My brain is doing somersaults. What if the bees in Mexico aren’t actually Africanized? Why did I think they were Africanized?? Aren’t they Africanized!!?
I ask Bradia, she doesn’t know. I ask the other beekeepers, they provided a variety of answers (from “Yes, they’re all Africanized” to “No, they are not”). I try to bring this up with the Bee Team without admitting that I might have been mistaken about something as fundamental as the origin, behavior, and characteristics of the bees I’ll be spending nine months with.
To my immense relief, I confirm that the honey bees here are, in fact, Africanized. It’s alright, I can stay in Mexico, and we’ll laugh about this later. I have since learned a lot about the history and spread of Africanized bees throughout South and Central America, and I will write more about that later. For now, for all of you who were wondering: Bees in Mexico. Africanized. Yes.