COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Officials said Friday so-called killer bees have been found for the first time in the metropolitan area of Houston, more than 300 miles from where the insects crossed the Rio Grande in 1990.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Plant Health Inspection Service said a swarm of the Africanized honey bees were found in a trap eight miles south of Orchard in Fort Bend County, southwest of the city of Houston.
The find adds Fort Bend County to the quarantine restricting movement of commercial honey bees in Texas. Texas Apiary Inspection Service inspector John Fick said Jackson, Wharton and Colorado counties were also quarantined because of their proximity. No swarms have been confirmed in those counties.
Since their arrival in the U.S., Africanized honey bees have been responsible for stinging more than 140 people. Last week, the first U.S. fatality was recorded when an 82-year-old McAllen rancher died from an allergic reaction after suffering bee stings during an attempt to remove them from an abandoned building.
Texas A&M entomologist Dr. Horace Van Cleave said officials had been expecting Africanized honey bees to arrive in Houston since last spring, but a cooler, drier winter apparently slowed their progress.
The latest find indicates that the northeastern edge of the insect's migration into the U.S. from Mexico has progressed more than 300 miles from where the first swarm was detected near Brownsville in October 1990.
Africanized honey bees look just like regular domestic honey bees, but they are more defensive in protecting their hives, a trait that earned them the 'killer bees' moniker.
The apiary inspection service, the regulatory agency for the Texas bee laws, imposes quarantines based on the Texas Africanized Honey Bee Management Plan. The quarantine allows beekeepers to move hives within but not out of the quarantine zone.
Officials said 62 counties currently are quarantined in Texas.