A beehive in Bradenton was mistakenly identified as a colony of Africanized "killer bees," a bee expert said.
The giant hive apparently was the home of ordinary honey bees -- an estimated 50,000 -- and was exterminated using pesticide late Thursday night.
The hive (at left) was in a tree on private property and hanging over a public street near King Middle School. The Manatee School District made the call to exterminate as a safety measure.
Not all were in agreement, including some neighbors who wanted the bees safely relocated, a common practice.
"We need to do the right thing with these and move them instead of killing them," Kevin Finelli, president of the Indian Springs Homeowners Association, told WFTS, Channel 11.
Scientists say honey bees are crucial to global ecosystems, and pollinate 90 percent of U.S. crops. The U.S Department of Agriculture recently set aside $8 million to help boost honey bee populations, which are declining nationwide in record numbers, largely because of colony collapse disorder. Nuisance hives are frequently relocated without incident.
WFTS posted a video report, including an interview with University of Florida master beekeeper Kevin Lausman, who had a first-hand look at the bees.
"If they were Africanized, and we're this close, they would be coming after us," said Lausman, who maintains research hives in nearby Palma Sola Botanical Park.
In 2012, Florida changed laws to encourage and protect backyard hives as a defense against pest infestation and Africanized bees.
"We're trying to stop the spread of Africanized bees coming into the area," said Lausman, also president of the Suncoast Beekeepers Association. "If you take away all the regular bees, you're making it real easy for the exotic bees to move in."
In November 2013, a massive hive of killer bees were discovered in a crawlspace of a small home in St. Petersburg. The colony had an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 bees. Two dogs were attacked and one died before police arrived.