Killer bees discovered in Colorado for first time

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PALISADE, Colo. -- Killer bees have been discovered in Colorado for the first time.

Here' s the question: Is the discovery a fluke, or are they here to stay?

FOX31 Denver's Kent Erdahl went to Grand Junction Wednesday to find out. He found that a test at a second potential hive could hold the key.

Rob Fenwick owns Fruit Basket Orchard. He has a close relationship with bees. He makes sure they have what they need to pollinate his trees and plants. But if you think Rob was surprised to learn that killer bees had been confirmed in this area, you'd be wrong.

“The first thing I thought was, well maybe that explains our mean hive,” Fenwick says. He and his family have avoided that mean hive since last year.

“Within about 25-30 feet of that other hive they’d be chasing me. I mean, literally, they’ve chased us all the way back to the house.”

Killer bees look just like regular honey bees, but they act much differently.

“You can’t get close to them without them coming and attacking you,” says Bob Hammon of Tri-River Area Extension.

That's what happened to a Palisade farmer last month. Tuesday tests confirmed that "Africanized" bees had made it farther north than experts thought possible.

“We’ve always assumed they got eliminated when the winter hits," Hammon says.

The hive of confirmed Africanized bees is just a few miles from Rob’s orchard, which is why both he, and the CSU extension office now believe it’s time to test the second one.

The experts say the population of killer bees is still too small to pose a threat to the public, and they say trouble can be avoided by keeping your distance.

“We’re happy to sort of banish them to the extent possible,” Fenwick says.

Colorado State University is setting up a new testing facility for killer bees that should be operational in the next couple of weeks. The extension office is encouraging beekeepers on the Western Slope to take samples from hives that may be acting unusually aggressive.