Africanized Bees

Africanized bees, known as the Africanized honeybee, and known to most o of the world as “killer bees”, is an offspring of the Western honeybee that was produced by cross-breeding the African honeybee with various European honeybees such as the Italian honeybee and the Iberian honeybee.

The Africanized honeybee was first introduced in Brazil around 1956 in an attempt to increase honey production from beehives, but around 26 honeybee swarms escaped captivity in 1957. The bees have spread throughout South America and into North America around 1985. Beehives were discovered in South Texas around the 1990’s. The bees continue to penetrate new areas of the south in their pursuit of food sources.

Africanized honey bees are very defensive than other species of honeybees, and are more prone to attack faster than European honeybees. They have killed around 1,100 humans, with people that get attacked by the bees receiving 10 times more stings than from European honeybees. The Africanized honeybees have killed horses and other animals since their existence.

The Africanized bee exhibits certain behavioral traits that make them less than not suitable for commercial beekeeping, excessive aggressiveness and swarming foremost, they are the dominant type of honeybee for beekeeping in Central and South America based on their overbearing behavior as well as their ability to out produce European honeybees, with some beekeepers claiming that the Africanized honeybees are superior honey producers and pollinators of crops.

The differences between Africanized honeybees and other Western honeybees consist of the following:

  • Africanized bees swarm more  and can travel longer distances  than other types of honeybees.
  • Africanized honeybees migrate based on food source supplies.
  • They will leave the colony and beehive based on stress of the colony.
  • The Africanized bee has a defensiveness when in a resting swarm.
  • The Africanized bees protect their beehives  aggressively.
  • The beehives have more bees that guard compared to other types of honeybees.
  • Travel in greater numbers and distances when guarding their hives.
  • The Africanized bees will not survive extended periods of low food supplies

In 2002, the Africanized honeybees had spread from Brazil south to northern Argentina and north to Central America, Trinidad (West Indies), Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico,, Utah, Louisiana Florida, and southern California. In June 2005, it was discovered that the honeybees had penetrated the border of Texas and had spread into southwest Arkansas. On 11 September 2007, Commissioner Bob Odom of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture said that Africanized honeybees were found in the New Orleans area.

In tropical climates they effectively out-compete European bees and, at their peak rate of expansion, they spread north at a rate of almost one mile a day. Current knowledge of the genetics of these Africanized honeybees suggests that such a strategy, had it been attempted, would not have been successful. The Africanized bees are known to become more aggressive than a nest of yellow-jackets.  If you happen to run into a nest you should run to the closest place and seek shelter.  Many people have been killed by the bee and reacted too slow to get away from them.

As the Africanized honeybee migrates further north, colonies continue to intertwine with European honeybees. The honeybees are becoming more aggressive as they continue to travel to new area for food supplies.  Africanized bees have a set of characteristics with respect to foraging behavior that is aggressive and overbearing to the regular honeybee . Africanized bees begin looking for food at young ages and harvest a greater quantity of pollen compared to other honeybee types. This may be linked to the high reproductive rate of the Africanized honeybee which requires pollen to feed the greater number of  Africanized honeybees that are in the beehive.

You must use extreme caution if you suspect Africanized bees are in your area.  They are deadly and will attack in great numbers that can and will kill you.

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