The Africanized honeybee, Apis mellifera scutellata (Lepeletier), is a hybrid. In the 1950’s a scientist in Brazil was studying some honeybees from Africa. Some of the queens escaped and interbred with the local bees. The African bees and the hybrids began to migrate across South America.
The African bees moved through Central America and Mexico. Scientists estimate that they traveled fewer than 300 miles every year. By the 1990’s, they were established in the southern United States.
The Africanized honeybees look very similar to the European honeybees that were already in the United States. Identification often requires a DNA test of the bees that are in doubt. However, there are several differences that are easy to see.
Africanized honeybees are very aggressive. They defend their nest against intruders that are more than 50 feet away. There have been reports of the bees attacking a person operating lawn equipment 100 feet from the nest.
Africanized honeybees have fewer bees in a colony than the European honeybees do. The Africanized honeybee workers make the nest in unusual places like the open space in a concrete block or in an old tire. The Africanized bees re-locate their nest several times each year. The European bees re-locate just once or twice per year.
Despite the differences, Africanized honeybees pollinate crops and produce honey just as the European honeybees do. For that reason, scientists recommend that they not be controlled unless they pose a risk to people. If they have made a nest inside a home, they should be removed. If a beekeeper will not remove hem, insecticide is the only choice.
Insecticide treatments for any stinging insects can be challenging. Holes may have to be drilled in walls. Special equipment is often needed to prevent misapplication. Safety equipment is necessary to prevent insecticide from splashing back into the face of the person doing the treating.
Safety equipment is required to protect against stings. The work is often done on a ladder. For all of these reasons, many people prefer to call a pest control professional to get rid of bees and other stinging insects.