The Africanized Honey Bee

The Africanized Honey Bee is a very controversial type of bee that has been the subject of numerous documentaries, newspaper articles, TV breaking news and film scripts. Famous for its aggressiveness and its killer behavior, the Africanized Honey Bee is in fact a hybrid bee, a combination between the European Bee belonging to the Apis Mellifera, Apis Melifera Carnica or Apis Melifera Linguica subspecies and the African Honey Bee known as Apis Mellifera Scutellata. It is quite difficult to differentiate at a first glance the common honey bees from their aggressive relatives that have the habit of swarming out of the hive at the slightest threat they perceive, including vibrations caused by cars, passer-bys or construction equipment.

A lot of beesThe Africanized Honey Bee is a relatively new bee hybrid. They resulted from the African Honey bees that were brought to the Brazilian apiaries in the 1950s. The Brazilian beekeepers wanted to obtain a subspecies of bee that could face better the tropical climatic conditions typical for the South American continent. Unfortunately, these bees escaped into the wilderness and they spread throughout the American continent till they reached the United States territory. Their presence was officially registered on October 19th, 1990. The bees were captured by a beekeeper living in the town of Hidalgo, Texas. Then, the presence of numerous bee colonies was reported in the states of New Mexico, Arizona and California. The bees spread even more and by 1995 they covered huge area in Riverside, San Diego and Imperial. Nowadays, the Africanized honey bee can be found in Nevada, California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. Beekeepers report that these bees are continuing their expansion, causing fear and troubles due to their aggressiveness and swarming habits. These bees enter the European Bee families, living and mating with them. The hybrid bees resulting from these mating processes are quite quick-tempered as well.

Although, quite similar in appearance the Africanized Honey Bee and the European Honey Bee have a very distinctive behavior. Thus, the Africanized Bees have the habit of swarming more often than other bee subspecies. The European Honey Bee has the habit of swarming once a year while their aggressive cousins are known to swarm even up six times per year. In spite of their aggressiveness the Africanized Bees do not attack unless they perceive a danger. They do not kill animals and people randomly.
The Africanized Honey Bee is by far more selective than the European Bee when it comes to selecting a place where to set up their hive. They prefer smaller places like cement blocks, used tires, piles, hollow trees, holes in the ground and even metal poles. They also prefer abandoned house and attics.

In spite of the common belief the venom of the Africanized Honey Bee is not more lethal than the one of the European Bee or any other bee subspecies. However, when they attack they do it in a higher number and follow their enemy on longer distances. They calm down quite difficult and after an attack they remain in a state of alert for almost twenty-four hours and they swarm on any being approaching the hive.

These bees have spread so quickly and on such a huge territory due to their lack of pretentions when it comes to shelter. They also swarm quite a lot. It is advisable to bee-proof houses if you do not want to be confronted with an African Honey Bee invasion. Thus, it is better to seal all cracks and holes that are large enough to allow bee penetration. Special attention must be given to attics, walls and fireplaces since bees consider them ideal nesting places. Sealing can be done using screen or materials like patch or caulking. It is also highly advisable to remove all old pots and unused bee equipment that can serve as nest for these bees. It is not advisable to remove the bee by yourself. The best thing to do is to call a professional beekeeper or a removing company.

In case of Africanized Bee's attack it is advisable to run and get shelter into a building or a car. It is advisable to cover your face and head since they are the body parts that are the most sensible to bee stings. Stingers must be removed immediately from the skin however it is better to do this when you are at a safe distance from the attacking bees. Jumping into ponds or other water resources is not a real life solution.

Africanized Honey Bees are smaller that the European ones however in order to clearly identify the bees on your property it is better to perform a FABIS test (Fast Africanized Bee Identification System). In order to perform this test the beekeeper has to take around 100 bees from the suspected hive. If the right wing of these bees has a length under 9 mm than the beekeeper is dealing with an Africanized hive, if the wings have a length higher than 9 mm than the hive is inhabited by European Bees. There are also DNA test that can be performed so as to correctly indentifying the bees inhabiting your apiary.

There are still many to be discovered about the Africanized Honey Bee. What has to be known is the fact that these honey bee subspecies is not as dangerous as it is depicted in the Hollywood movies. However, Africanized bee hives have to be handled more carefully since these bees are so susceptible to enemies.

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