Killer Bees

Killer Bees

killer bees


Apis Melifera has 29 recognised subspecies. The number of these subspecies is determined largely by geographical differences. All are cross-fertile. Numerous adaptations developed in response to the isolation of geographical areas. This adaptations included synchronized brood periods with local flora bloom times, creating a winter cluster when it is cold, migration swarming to Africa and enhanced long-distance foraging behaviour in desert areas. There are many other traits that have been inherited.

The Africanized honey bees in the Western Hemisphere are descended from hives operated by biologist Warwick E. Kerr , who had interbred honey bees from Europe and southern Africa . Kerr was attempting to breed a strain of bees that would produce more honey in tropical conditions than the European strain of honey bee then in use throughout North Central South America . The hives containing this particular African subspecies were housed at an apiary Rio Claro Sao Paulo , in the southeast of Brazil , and were noted to be especially defensive. These hives had been fitted with special excluder screens (called queen excluders ) to prevent the larger queen bees and drones from getting out and mating with the local population of European bees. Kerr says that 26 Tanganyikan A. m. Scutellata swarms accidentally released in October 1957 by a visiting beekeeper who noticed the queen excluders interfering in worker bee movement. The Africanized honeybees were then spread to other colonies and crossedbred with European honeybees.

The descendants of these colonies have since spread throughout the Americas, moving through the Amazon Basin in the 1970s, crossing into Central America in 1982, and reaching Mexico in 1985.

Africanized honeybees gained the reputation for being an invasive species due to their speed and unassisted movement throughout these regions.

California oil field located in San Joaquin Valley, California was the location where the first Africanized honeybees arrived in the U.S. in 1985. According to bee experts, the colony did not travel overland and instead arrived hidden in an oil-drilling pipeline shipped from South America. Texas received its first permanent colony in 1990 from Mexico.

Tucson, Arizona: A 1994 study on trapped swarms revealed that 15 percent of them had not been Africanized. This number had risen to 90% by 1997.

killer bees

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ORDER: Hymenoptera GENUS: Apis

FAMILY: Apidae SPECIES & SUBSPECIES: mellifera scutellata

Description: The general appearance of “Killer Bees” (= Africanized Bees) is the same as common Honey Bees, but there are some distinctive physical differences between the two. A laboratory must measure 20 structures to determine the difference. You can also check the DNA or enzymes in your specimen.

Distribution: In 1956 some African Honey Bee colonies were introduced to Brazil with the intent of crossing-breeding with Brazilian Honey Bees. 26 African queens along with many European worker bees fled an experimental apiary in the south of Sao Paulo. The African bee escaped have formed hybrid populations along with European Honey Bees both from feral colonies and commercial hives. They gradually moved northwards through South America. Central America and eastern Mexico. The average annual distance traveled by them is 100 to 200 miles. Killer Bees first appeared in Texas in 1990. Then they made their way to Arizona in 1993. The bees are likely to establish colonies in the southern United States.

Damage done: Africanized Honey Bees (=Killer Bees) are dangerous because they attack intruders in numbers much greater than European Honey Bees. Their introduction in Brazil has resulted in the deaths of approximately 1000 people. They are ten times more likely to sting than European honey bees. They react to disturbances ten times faster than European Honey Bees, and will chase a person a quarter of a mile. Another concern with Africanized Honey Bees is the impact they have on the honey industry. It has an annual revenue of $140Million dollars. They also affect general pollination in orchards, field crops, and other fields. Their annual income of $10 billion. The pollination results of interbreeding colonies may be different between Africanized and European honey bees. They might be less aggressive and abandon their nests more often, which could lead to them not being able to survive winters. In the face of aggressive bees beekeepers could lose their ability to continue honey production. The queen and packaged bee industries are located in the south of the United States. This would impact the honey industry on the continent.

Control: Many authorities have been working on the problem of Killer Bees in the United States. There are two main solutions. Drone-flooding is the first. This involves keeping large numbers of honey bees from Europe in areas that have commercially raised queens. This process would limit the mating possibilities between Africanized drones and European queens. Requeening often is the second strategy. This involves the beekeeper replacing the queen of the colony. It ensures that European Honey Bees have been mated with European drones.

killer bees

You can have strength by numbers

Despite their name, a single killer bee is no deadlier than any other honeybee subspecies. Their wings are shorter and they carry less poison than the other honeybees.

The major difference lies in their nest defence. When an ordinary European honeybee colony is threatened, around 10% of the bees will venture out to protect the colony’s home.

Africanized bees can sense vibrations and mistake them for predators. (c) Terry Ross via Flickr. CC BY 2.0. Killer bees tend to empty most of their nests. Some reports even mention swarms as large as 800,000. With each sting, a pheromone is released, signalling for more bees from the colony to join in the onslaught.

An adult could be killed by around 1000 stings. It is not surprising that Africanized bees are so aggressive, they have the nickname “Black Bees”.

The bees can also be very persistent. Many people have claimed to be able to hide underwater in order to avoid being stung. The bees, however, are not afraid to wait. The bees are said to continue their assault on targets until they reach the air.

They aren’t going to attack just for the sake, but only when their colony is in danger.

The bees are very sensitive to vibrations. Sometimes the bees may mistake their neighbours as foes and attack humans or livestock.

killer bees

Resisting Colony Collapse

Western honeybee number has fallen, particularly in the United States. In 2016, beekeepers lost up to 44%. The rate of loss now appears to be reducing, however.

The decline of these species is due to climate change, diseases, pesticides, habitat destruction and climate change.

CCD, or colony collapse disorder is one sign of the decline. CCD leads to the permanent exodus of most worker bees, leaving behind the queen, young, and some nurse bees.

Research has shown that bees may become lost or unable to return home if they are exposed to pesticide residues.

A second theory for CCD may be Varroa mite infestations. These insects weaken the bees through their body feeding.

Varroa destructor mite found in the head of a pupa bee. The mite is approximately two millimetres wide. (c) Gilles San Martin Via Flickr ( CC BY-SA 2.0 Killer bees, on the other hand, seem to be more resistant against the factors causing CCD.

In Puerto Rico it was noted that compared to European species, the Africanised bees groomed for longer periods – often more effectively – biting and damaging Varroa mites.

killer bees


Ellis, J. and A. Ellis. 2008.

African honey bee, Africanized honey bee, or killer bee, Apis mellifera scutellata Lepeletier (Hymenoptera: Apidae) . In: J.L. Capinera (Ed. Encyclopedia of Entomology – Vol. 4, pp. 59-66). Dordrecht: Springer.

Kono Y. and J.R. Kohn. 2015.

Range and frequency of Africanized honey bees in California (USA) . PLoS ONE TEN(9): e0137407.

Sheppard W.S. and D.R. Smith. 2000.

An overview of different methods for identifying African-derived bees living in Americas. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 93(2):159-176.

killer bees

Additional pages

Ag Inputs Pesticides Structural Pests Grain Grading Why are Africanized honey bees called “


“>killer bees“?

There is no doubt that Hollywood and the press have contributed to this image, but people and animals have been killed by stingings. All honey bees, including Africanized honeybees, will sting if their nests are threatened by intruders. However, African bees defend their nests with less provocation, in greater numbers and for longer distances than their cousins, the more docile European honey bees that we have in the U.S.

Georgian honeybees are Africanized?

While we think it unlikely that Africanized honeybees are found in Georgia, there is no way to be certain. In 2005, several counties in central Florida were found to have Africanized honeybees. Georgia Department of Agriculture employed traps to capture swarms of bees on the Georgia-Florence border between 2005 and 2010. Although several swarms were captured and identified as Africanized, there were none.

Dougherty County’s 73-yearold resident, however, died after being stung multiple times by bees. The bees became Africanized through laboratory testing. In Dougherty County alone, over 100 colonies of bees were taken by the Department. Two additional managed honey hives were also identified. Bainbridge was home to an Africanized colony in 2011. The state has not yet seen any additional wild or feral colonies, swarms, or other wild species.

Who are the beekeepers and what role should they play?

Protecting Africanized honeybees from establishment in Africa is our greatest defense. Managed beehives can be found throughout the country. AHBs can thrive in vacuums, and AHBs will not be able to establish themselves if there isn’t the European honeybee strain. AHBs will be found in areas where beekeepers have been trained to manage them. AHBs will be able to show signs by certain behaviors, such as the following:

Do Killer Bees Still Exist?

These bees, known as “killer”, were formed when honey bees of southern Africa and Brazilian honeybees were mated. You can find Africanized honeybees in California, Arizona and Texas as well as Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. They are also found in central and southern Florida.

Do Killer Bees Attack Humans?

Although they are called killer bees, one honeybee of any subspecies is no more harmful than another. Every sting produces a pheromone that signals the colony for more bees. It is estimated that around 1,000 stings could kill an adult human.

What Happens If You Get Stung By A Killer Bee?

Like common honeybees, Africanized honeybee stings can lead to local pain, itching and swelling as well as skin infection. It can also lead to an allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing, seizure, or irregular heartbeats. This can lead to serious lung, kidney, liver and muscle damage.

Does honey made by killer bees come from dead ones?

Killer bees or Africanized honey bees are actually great honey producers. Some beekeepers even prefer them. … The killer bees carry less poison because they are smaller than European and European bees. But they can be more aggressive than regular honeybees. March 8, 2018.

.Killer Bees

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