The world wants honey bees. In addition to their key ecological perform, they’re liable for the pollination of almost 85% of all meals crops for people and supply us with a number of helpful merchandise, with honey on the high of the checklist.

However what about Africanized bees? These are the notorious aggressive “ killer bees ”, descendants of African bees launched to South America in 1956 that rapidly unfold to most of South and Central America, arriving in the USA within the years 1990. Though, by means of particular administration methods, they don’t seem to considerably have an effect on honey manufacturing or beekeeper funding, a minimum of in the USA, they will have critical impacts on native wildlife. In South and Central America, Africanized bees regularly occupy holes appropriate for endangered native species of cavity-nesting birds, and the potential adverse results of this competitors are of concern.

Lear’s macaw is an endangered species endemic to northern Bahia in Brazil, which nests in cliff cavities regularly invaded by Africanized bees. Native to the tropical dry forest and scrub of the arid zone of caatinga, the Lear’s Macaw has a really small geographic distribution and is threatened by the continued degradation of its habitat and meals provide, by the theft of untamed chicks in nests for commerce and typically persecuted. by farmers to forage corn crops.

Lear’s macaw is listed as endangered (Joao Quental / Flickr)

Lear’s macaws nest on the cliffs of two conventional websites, however have just lately colonized a minimum of two extra websites – this growth is almost certainly linked to the continued enhance within the wild inhabitants, which reached a complete of 1,694 people in 2018. The advance within the destiny of the species is basically because of the efforts, supported by greater than 480,000 USD from the Loro Parque Fundación (LPF) since 2006, to higher perceive its ecological necessities and, in parallel, to hold out conservation actions for his fast restoration and long-term security.

Though enhancing, the state of affairs of the species continues to be precarious, not solely due to its very restricted nesting areas, but in addition due to the invention by Dr Erica Pacífico that solely about 20% of the people are energetic breeders. throughout the identical breeding season. Utilizing climbing gear and braveness, Erica has spent years climbing and descending cliffs to review the species’ reproductive biology.

She discovered that Africanized bees regularly occupied an rising variety of cavities in breeding cliffs. Not solely do bees exclude macaws from correct nesting cavities, but in addition bee colonies close to energetic macaw nests forestall protected entry for surveillance. In a single rely, greater than 100 honeycombs had been recorded on nesting cliffs – ten instances as many Lear’s macaw nests in two areas. Cavities occupied by bees had been considerably larger on the cliffs than these occupied by macaws, probably forcing macaws to breed in decrease, extra accessible cavities.

Lear’s macaw nests in cavities on hard-to-reach cliffs (Juan Cornejo).

Subsequently, measurements had been taken to evaluate the effectiveness of the so-called “push-pull” technique to get rid of bees. Promoted by bee management knowledgeable Dr Caroline Efstathion, founding father of the Florida-based Avian Preservation and Training Conservancy (APEC), this technique retains bees away from nesting cavities with a protected permethrin repellent, and Concurrently pulls the bees close to the lure containers, every with a lovely pheromone to behave as a decoy, put in on a decrease degree. The LPF beforehand helped assist Caroline’s work utilizing this technique to scale back bee occupancy in nesting containers arrange for endangered Cape Parrots in South Africa.

Honeycombs in cavities on macaw nesting cliffs had been handled with permethrin by firing a crossbow bolt that distributed the repellant on impression. When potential, the comb was faraway from the cavity and a much less poisonous insecticide (fipronil, used to manage fleas on home animals) was utilized to forestall bee recolonization. Regardless of the experimental nature of the work, the outcomes had been very encouraging. Not one of the untreated cavities had been occupied by nesting Lear’s macaws, however 15% of the handled cavities had been occupied inside two years of remedy. The handled cavities occupied by macaws had been considerably larger on the cliffs than these unoccupied. A subsequent survey of the macaw breeding inhabitants confirmed that honeycomb administration contributed 71% to the rise within the breeding inhabitants.

An Africanized bee nests on a breeding ledge of Lear’s Macaw (Loro Parque Fundación)

An intensive and steady eradication program is really helpful to boost the growth of the macaw inhabitants in historic areas, however long-term success will depend upon the involvement of the native inhabitants. It is not uncommon on this space for folks to gather wild honey, and on the cliffs, they construct stick ladders to succeed in the tallest honeycombs. In some instances, this brings collectors nearer to macaw nests, with the chance that they might poach the chicks for comfort. Nevertheless, a part of the continued work is offering farmers with beehive containers, private protecting tools, and directions on preserve bee colonies for honey manufacturing. On this approach, they are going to have a brand new supply of sustainable earnings and an incentive to not reduce down timber or climb cliffs to acquire honey, and thus assist forestall poachers from shifting.


Pacífico E, Efstathion C, Filadelfo T, Dénes F, Gilardi J and Tella, J. 2020. Experimental elimination of invasive African bees has elevated the scale of the breeding inhabitants of the endangered Lear’s macaw. Pest Administration Science. DOI: 10.1002 / ps.5972

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