Sunday, March 22, 2015

"Killer Bees" Season 1 Episode 6

The episode "Killer Bees" first aired on May 1, 1977 . It was written and produced by Alex Pomasanoff.

"The deadly Bee is spreading northward toward the United States. A scientific test of their aggressiveness was attempted in Brazil by expert Dr. Norman Gerry". Nimoy sets the scene we see unfolding before us. Apparently we are about to meet the infamous "Killer Bee".

For a topic I expected to be a little boring, the opening sequence is pretty frightening. The background hum of the bees and the slightly elevated voice of Dr. Norman Gerry describing his own concern with the bees is all a bit unsettling.

Nimoy then tells us about a swarm of Bees that attacked the citizens of Rio De Janeiro in September of 1965. Apparently 60 people were stung during this incident. Nimoy explains that this is a new more fierce honey bee. Nimoy encourages us to not fear this new bee, but instead respect it. As it is a much more efficient bee than any other.

Back to Dr. Gerry to compare the European Honey Bee most commonly found in the US to this new killer bee from South America. With some bizarre pure 70's background music, we are given some basic information about bees. This was a little boring and felt more like an old fashioned National Geographic segment to me.

Nimoy describes the roles bees play and how efficient they are in their work.

We come to understand that the bees work very hard to maintain the hive and the creation of the honey comb. Bees may be the most social of all animals as they truly work together all the time.

The exception, of course, is the queen bee. As mother of the hive, other bees work on her behalf and tend to her every need. She lays up to 1500 eggs every day. Some great shots of bees emerging as fully fledged adults. Feels like Junior High Science class all over again!

On we go learning about how bees know which time of day and which flowers produce certain types of nectar and how they harvest the nectar. Sounds nice, but I'm not watching this show for a nature lesson. Finally Nimoy explains that African Honey Bees are alike the Honey Bees from Europe that live in the US in most ways. Nimoy explains how their different environment has produced an evolutionary change that has resulted in a different temperment. They live on constant alert and so are much more aggressive than the European version.

"A sudden movement, a dark color... even the smell of carbon dioxide from the breath of a predator can send them into a stinging frenzy." Good thing they are only in Africa right? Well unfortunately Dr. Warwick Kerr imported a bunch of these African Bees into Brazil in 1956. He was working at the University of San Paulo and did this in an effort to breed a bee that would be docile like the European Bee, but have the more hardworking and efficent characteristic of the African Bees.

So far so good. Except in 1957 a nameless worker accidentally let some of the bees out. Hundreds of thousands of pure aggressive African Bees were loose. Since then, they have multiplied and driven out the native bees. Good help is hard to find! Thanks a lot Dr. Kerr!!

Nimoy tells of several stories of farmers in Brazil and animals being attacked by the bees. This includes 300 people being attacked at a funeral service, and players in a soccer game coming under attack. Maybe out of guilt or a sense of responsibility, the University of San Paulo is studying genetics today (1977) to try and solve the problem. They are trying to tame to killer bees using genetics. What follows is an artificial insemination sequence. If the experiment succeeds, the hive will become less aggressive. So far, we are told, the experiments have not been successful.

Apparently a movie called The Savage Bees was made and in it Dr. Gerry reenacted a bee attack. Dr. Gerry tells us they are moving northward at about 200 miles a year and could reach the US by 1990. Nimoy points out they could get here sooner if they hitch a ride on a ship.

A little research by me indicates that Killer Bees made their way to California in 1985 via a Venezuelan Oil Tanker. Kudos to Nimoy for this bold prediction! Since then, these bees have been found throughout the Southwestern United States. Southern Utah is as far north that they have been found. There have also been Killer Bees in Georgia and Tennessee.

No doubt that Killer Bees are a dangerous threat, one that I have been hearing about for years. But I'm not really sure what Nimoy is "In Search Of" here? I guess maybe its a way to end their threat? I don't know, this episode just felt different to me. It felt like a PBS nature special. It was kind of boring and not very creepy at all.

"Scientists have suggested various ways to stem the bees' advance. Everything from introducing armies of docile drones that might dilute their aggressiveness to building a giant bee net at the Panama Canal. So far, nothing has been done." Still nothing has been done as the bees are now in the US. I would have liked to see what that giant bee net would have looked like though!

You can watch this episode "Killer Bees" below.

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