His father had kept bees, and his father before him, and his before him. Tradition spoke of his ancestors pulling honey from trees for years untold before the first Portuguese sailors had even sighted Brazil. He was well-known by the biologists at the university in Rio Claro. He was their local expert.
So it was nothing out of the ordinary when he was seen walking around the experimental sector of the agricultural research facility on October 15, 1957. Everyone who’d seen him simply assumed he’d been invited to observe the apiary while the lead scientist was away. Several of the staff had even waved to him as they passed by and no one said a word when he began to open the hives.
Dr. Warwick Kerr returned a few days later and noticed a stack of metal-screened frames propped against an outbuilding nearby his experiments. He recognized immediately what they were, he’d built them himself, but he didn’t at first understand why they were there. They should have been in the...
Dr. Kerr quickly pulled on his hood and rushed to the hives. Each one that he opened revealed the same shocking fact. They were half-emptied and the queens were gone. All of them.
The unnamed local bee-keeper didn’t realize what he was doing when he removed the “excluders” that kept the queens confined to their hives. He was right in his knowledge that it was too early in the season to keep the queens and drones from entering the upper “supers” but it might have been better had he been less generous in applying his knowledge.
Off in the jungles of southeastern Brazil, twenty-six swarms of African honeybees were spreading out, finding new homes in trees and caves and barns. It wasn’t long before the first casualties appeared.