Africanized Honeybees

Africanized honeybee is the term that scientists use for hybrid bees. The hybrid bees are the product of interbreeding between the African honeybee, Apis mellifera scutellata, and one of the species of the Western or European honeybee.

The African honeybee was imported into Brazil in the 1950’s. Specimens were brought to Brazil in hopes of breeding a honeybee that could survive the South American climate and still be gentle and produce honey as the European bees did. Some of the African bees escaped and began to migrate. By the early 1990’s the African bees had reached the southern part of the United States.

Scientists find it hard to distinguish African bees or hybrid bees from the European honeybees that were in the United States from colonial times. The African honeybees are usually slightly smaller than the European bees, but scientists must check many specimens to be certain. Scientists in many laboratories use DNA testing to identify the species of suspicious honeybees.

There re several behavior differences between the two types of bees. African honeybees have different nesting preferences from the European bees. The African bees may relocate their nest as many as ten times per year. The European bees relocate once or twice per year when the colony gets too large.

The Africanized bees live in smaller colonies and they can use small nest sites. They have been known to make a nest in unusual objects like cement blocks. There have been reports of Africanized honeybees nesting in barbecue grills.

Aggressiveness is another way to distinguish the two types of bees. African honeybees are much more aggressive than the European bees. The hybrids seem to have the same characteristic.

Africanized honeybees attack intruders at a much greater distance than European bees do. There have been reports of people passing within 50 feet of a nest being attacked. People using mowers or other lawn equipment have been attacked while they were more than100 feet from the bees’ nest.

Africanized bees do not have a more potent sting than European bees. African bees deliver many more stings. If 10 European bees would attack an intruder, the African bees might attack with hundreds of bees.

This increase in the number of stings means that the Africanized bees could deliver enough venom to kill a human. Their aggressiveness and potential; for injury is the reason the Africanized bees began to be called “Killer Bees”.

When the Africanized honeybees become agitated, they remain agitated for an hour or more. A person who is passing by could walk into a crowd of angry bees without doing anything to provoke them. Experts recommend seeking emergency medical attention if someone receives multiple stings.

Africanized honeybees pollinate plants and produce honey. There re fewer workers in a colony of Africanized bees, so they produce less honey than colonies of European honeybees. Since honeybees make honey and pollinate crops, they are considered beneficial insects. However it is a myth that it is illegal to kill honeybees.

Experts suggest that if people see a swarm of migrating honeybees, they should stay a safe distance away from the bees until they move on. If honeybees have nested in a home and become a threat to people’s safety, they should be removed. In many areas of the country, beekeepers will remove honeybees from homes.

If a beekeeper cannot remove the bees, they may need to be eliminated. Because of the risk of stings, many people prefer to contact a pest control professional to treat bees rather than do it him or herself.