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Killer Bees Latest Scourge For Louisiana

The residents of flood-damaged St. Bernard Parish, still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, have a new concern: killer bees.

Agriculturalists began setting traps around a half-mile radius of a storm-wrecked home Monday that authorities have confirmed was infested with aggressive Africanized honey bees.

The hybrids first drove away contractors hired to tear the house down. Then they drove off beekeepers called in to catch them.

Finally mosquito workers killed the bees. The state agriculture department confirmed in late December that they were hybrids with the aggressive African strain, Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Bob Odom said.

The traps are to determine if more Africanized bees are lurking in the area. "So far, this is an isolated find in the New Orleans area," Odom said.

The bees probably were descendants of stowaways who arrived in New Orleans on a ship, said Jimmy Dunkley, the department's coordinator of nursery and apiary programs.

Nine swarms have been intercepted at state ports since 1988, some in shipping containers, some in barges, and some in the ships themselves, Dunkley said.

Africanized bees are the result of an experiment to increase honey production in Brazil. A swarm of the small, aggressive bees escaped the lab in 1957 and headed north. When they mated with native strains, the offspring turned out to be as aggressive as the African parents. They are sometimes called "killer bees" because their intense attacks can be fatal.

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