Chen, Szu-Hung (2013-01). Abundance and Distribution of Africanized Honey Bees in an Urban Environments. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • Africanized honey bees (AHB) are a hybrid between African and European honey bees (EHB). Compared to the EHB, AHB exhibit more intense, defensive behaviors but nevertheless provide the same important ecosystem service--pollination. AHB have been found in Tucson, AZ. since 1993. It is important to understand the population ecology of AHB for several reasons. Most directly, the behavioral traits retained from African bees present public safety and health risk. AHB are easily agitated; even slight disturbances (e.g., human movements) can provoke attacks. Several hybridized bee traits (e.g., higher colony growth rates, reproduction at a smaller colony size, nesting in a wider range of cavity materials, etc.) also make them more adapted to urban landscapes. The overlap of habitats and resource-using of AHB with human significantly raise the risk of stinging incidents, especially in the areas of bee aggregation. Although the presence of AHB in urban environments may present a public safety and health risk, they do contribute to urban ecosystems substantially through pollination. The fact that AHB is a part of the urban ecosystem suggests a need for a better understanding of the relationship among climate factors, urban landscape characteristics, and AHB population dynamics. The goal of my dissertation was to understand population dynamics of AHB in urban environments using removal records of AHB colonies in water meter boxes. I have demonstrated useful methods and repeatable procedures to process, extract, and synthesize water meter box data which were not collected or sampled specifically for any ecological research. I also examined the spatio-temporal distributions of AHB colony removals in water meter boxes, and evaluated the effects of variations of temperature and precipitation on observed patterns. Then, I investigated the linkage between spatial patterns of AHB colonies and urban landscape characteristics by evaluating densities of water meter boxes, AHB colony abundance, and colony occupancy among different land cover/land use types. Lastly, a conceptual model and quantitative models were developed to illustrate AHB population dynamics, particularly and the interactions among water meter boxes, alternative cavities, and honey bee colonies. Overall, the probabilities of AHB colonies selecting nesting sites can be influenced by: (1) the ratio of water meter boxes and alternative cavities; (2) the difference of vegetative attributes among locations associated with the preference of AHB in selecting new nesting sites. Seasonal variations of precipitation and temperature can affect the development and productivity of AHB population.

publication date

  • January 2013