Beekeeper works to 'rehabilitate' Africanized honeybees

Posted: Updated:
Arnold marks his queen bees with a bright color so they're easier to find. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Arnold marks his queen bees with a bright color so they're easier to find. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
All of Arnold's hives were once the highly aggressive Africanized bees, removed from peoples sheds or yards and relocated somewhere safer. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) All of Arnold's hives were once the highly aggressive Africanized bees, removed from peoples sheds or yards and relocated somewhere safer. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The first thing he does is overthrows the queen and reintroduces a new non-Africanized one. None of her offspring will have the aggressive gene. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The first thing he does is overthrows the queen and reintroduces a new non-Africanized one. None of her offspring will have the aggressive gene. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Arnold gets his queens from breeders in places where there are no Africanized populations, like Hawaii. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Arnold gets his queens from breeders in places where there are no Africanized populations, like Hawaii. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

We hear about bee attacks too often here in the desert. 

Africanized bees, also known as "killer bees," are aggressive. They made their way into Arizona in 1994, and have taken over. 

[RELATED: Bees attack 20 people outside of Tucson]

But some beekeepers, like Roy Arnold, are working to reverse that, putting them through "bee rehab."

"Ninety-five percent of all the bees that are feral here in Arizona, in the Phoenix area, are some form of Africanized," said Arnold.

All of Arnold's hives were once the highly aggressive Africanized bees, removed from people's sheds or yards, and relocated somewhere safer. 

[RELATED: Landscaper survives third bee attack in southern Arizona]

For the last four years, he has been perfecting his process to return them to European type bees through breeding. 

"Nobody likes to work with mean bees," he said.  

The first thing he does is overthrow the queen and reintroduce a new non-Africanized one. None of her offspring will have the aggressive gene. 

Within one generation, just eight weeks, the entire hive population is replaced with easier to handle bees. 

Arnold now regularly works around his hives without any protective gear. 

Arnold gets his queens from breeders in places where there are no Africanized populations, like Hawaii. Each queen costs about $35. He's reintroduced around 500 queens in the last few years. 

He hopes if enough beekeepers do the same, it might someday affect the wild populations too.

 "If we can change some of the genetics, if I can get 50 percent of the bees that are out there instead of 95 percent, I think that we're a step in the right direction," said Arnold. "We're actually turning back the time prior to 1994."

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

The free event is this Saturday, Nov. 18 at Agave Farm off Central Avenue. It runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will include demonstrations and honey tasting tables. 

Experts like Arnold will be on hand to educate people on how to care for and preserve honeybee populations. 

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Lauren ReimerLauren Reimer joined the 3TV/CBS 5 family in June 2016. She is originally from Racine, WI but is no stranger to our heat.

Click to learn more about Lauren.

Lauren Reimer

She previously worked for KVOA in Tucson, covering topics that matter to Arizonans including the monsoon, wildfires and border issues. During the child migrant crisis of 2014, Reimer was one of only a handful of journalists given access to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Nogales, where hundreds of unaccompanied children were being held after crossing into the U.S. from Central America. Before that, Reimer worked at WREX in Rockford, IL. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and still visits home often. When not chasing news stories, Reimer loves to explore, enjoying everything from trying new adventurous foods to visiting state and national parks or local places of historical significance.

Hide bio