Killer Bees

Killer Bees

killer bees


Apis mellifera can be divided into 29 different subspecies based on their geographic location. All of the subspecies can be cross-fertile. Geographic isolation led to numerous local adaptations. Many local adaptations were developed to overcome geographic isolation. These included brood cycles that are synchronized with bloom periods of the local flora. They also form a winter cluster for cold climates.

Africanized honeybees are derived from Warwick E. Kerr’s hives, which were interbred with honey bees from Europe. Kerr had hoped to produce a honey-producing bee that was more suitable for tropical climates than the European bee. This particular African subspecies was found in hives at an apiary Rio Claro Sao Paulo, located in the southwest of Brazil. These bees were particularly defense-minded. They were equipped with special queen excluder screens to stop drones and the bigger queen bees coming out to breed with the European population. Kerr says that in October 1957, a beekeeper visited and noticed that queen excluders were interfering the worker bees movements. He removed the screens, which resulted the accidental release 26 Tanganyikan A.m.scutellata. Following this accidental release, the Africanized honey bee swarms spread out and crossbred with local European honey bee colonies.

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.

Because their movement through these regions was rapid and largely unassisted by humans, Africanized honey bees have earned the reputation of being a notorious invasive species The prospect of


“>killer bees arriving in the United States caused a media sensation in the late 1970s, inspired several horror movies, and sparked debate about the wisdom of humans altering entire ecosystems.

The first Africanized honey bees in the U.S. were discovered in 1985 at an oil field in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Experts believe the colony arrived in the United States hidden inside a shipment of South American oil-drilling pipes. Texas saw the arrival of its first permanent colony from Mexico, in 1990.

Tucson, Arizona – A 1994 survey of trapped mosquito swarms showed that only 15% were Africanized. The number has risen to 91% by 1997.

killer bees

Addthis Share Tool


ORDER: Hymenoptera GENUS: Apis

FAMILY: Apidae SPECIES & SUBSPECIES: mellifera scutellata

Description: While the appearance of Killer Bees is very similar to the common Honey Bees there are some physical differences. To analyze the differences, a laboratory has to measure and compare some 20 different structures. An alternative method to test is to analyse the specimen’s DNA.

Distribution: In 1956, some colonies of African Honey Bees were imported into Brazil, with the idea of cross-breeding them with local populations of Honey Bees to increase honey production. One hundred and six African queens, as well as swarms European worker honey bees, fled from an experimental facility in southern Brazil. Since then, these African bee escapees formed mixed populations with European Honey Bees from both commercial and feral hives. Their spread has been gradual, with the bees moving approximately 100 to 200 miles per annum northward through South America and Central America. In 1990, Killer Bees reached southern Texas, appeared in Arizona in 1993, and found their way to California in 1995. They are expected to form colonies in parts of the southern United States.

There has been damage: Africanized Honey Bees (“=Killer Bees”) are dangerous as they target intruders with a greater number 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. Their ability to react quickly to environmental disturbances is ten times greater than European Honey Bees and they will follow a person for a quarter mile. Other concerns with Africanized Honey Bees are the effects on the honey industry (with an annual value of $140 million dollars) and general pollination of orchards and field crops (with an annual value of 10 billion dollars). There are potential differences between Africanized honeybees and European honeybees. Interbred colonies could differ in how they pollinate, become more aggressive or abandon the nest too often to avoid freezing. If beekeepers are faced with aggressive honey bees, they may have to stop producing honey. The honey industry in America would be affected if the queen raising and packaging industries were located in the South.

Control: Many agencies are working together to tackle the problem of Killer Bees. Both two options have been explored. First, drone-flooding. This is where large numbers are kept of European-bred Honey Bees (originally imported from Europe). This would reduce the chances of Africanized drones mating with European queens. Another strategy involves requeening regularly, in which the queen is replaced by the beekeeper. This ensures that European Honey Bees are the queens of the colony and that European drones also mat.

killer bees

Strength In Numbers

A single honeybee killer is not more dangerous than other subspecies, contrary to their names. They are smaller than other honeybees. Their wings are shorter, and their venom is less powerful.

It is their ability to defend their nests that makes the difference. Around 10% of European honeybee colonies will defend their home if threatened.

Africanized honey bees may be sensitive to vibrations. Sometimes they mistakenly believe that predators approach. There are even reports of swarms of 300,000 to 800,000. Every sting is followed by a release of pheromones, which signal for bees in other colonies to join the fun.

An adult could be killed by around 1000 stings. Their nickname is no surprise, as Africanised bees inflict more than that number of stings per hour.

They can be stubborn, too. Humans who have been stung by bees in the past have sought refuge beneath the water level to escape their stings. But the bees don’t mind waiting. 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.

But they are also acutely sensitive to vibrations. The bees seem to occasionally mistake neighbours for foes, resulting in attacks on humans, livestock and other animals.

killer bees

Resisting Colony Collapse

The decline in western honeybee populations has been particularly evident in the United States, where some beekeepers have reported losses up to 44% between 2015 and 2016. However, losses seem to be declining.

Their decline is attributed to factors including pests, pesticides, disease, climate change and habitat destruction.

CCD (colony collapse disorder), is a sign that this decline has begun. CCD results in the loss of the home to most worker honeybees. This includes the queen, their young and few nurse bees.

Studies have shown that pesticide residues can cause navigational failure, with the bees getting lost and unable to find their way home.

One theory that CCD could be caused by Varroa mite infestations is that they feed on the bodies of honeybees and weaken them.

Varroa destructor mite found in the head of a pupa bee. Two millimetres long, the mite can be seen. (c) Gilles San Martin via Flickr ( CCBY-SA2.0 Killer bees seem to have a greater resistance against the CCD-causing factors.

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., & A. Ellis. 2008.

Apis mellifera Lepeletier, Hymenoptera, Apidae: Africanized Honey Bee, Killer Bee, Apis mellifera Scutellata Lepeletier In: J.L. Capinera (Ed. Encyclopedia of Entomology – Vol. 4, pp. 59-66). Dordrecht: Springer.

Kono Y., J.R. Kohn. 2015.

California is home to a wide range of Africanized honey bees. PLoS ONE 10.9.

Sheppard W.S. Smith. 2000.

A comparison of several methods to determine the origin of African-derived African bees in America. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 93(2):159-176.

killer bees

Additional Pages

Ag Inputs Structural pesticides Grain Grading What is the meaning of “killer honeybees”, Africanized honeybees?

Although Hollywood sensationalism and Hollywood are a large part of the reason for this fame, many people and animals have lost their lives after being stung. Africanized honeybees and all honeybees will sting when they feel threatened. The African bees will defend their nests less frequently than the European honeybees.

Georgia has Africanized honeybees

Although we don’t believe Africanized Honey Bees (AHBs), it is possible that they are already established in Georgia. We cannot however say this with absolute certainty. Africanized honey bees were determined to be established in several central Florida counties in 2005. From 2005 to 2010, the Georgia Department of Agriculture deployed traps to capture swarms along the Georgia – Florida border. Although several swarms of birds were caught, no one was able to identify them as Africanized.

However, on October 21, 2010, a 73-year-old man in Dougherty County died from numerous bee stings he received after disturbing a feral (or wild) bee nest. Laboratory tests revealed that the bees are Africanized. The Department sampled over 100 bee colonies in and around Dougherty County and identified two additional managed hives that laboratory tests indicated were Africanized. Bainbridge was home to an Africanized colony in 2011. Bainbridge was the only state where there have been any other feral or wild colonies.

Who are the beekeepers and what role should they play?

Our best defence against Africanized honeybee establishment is managed beehives. AHBs can thrive in vacuums, and AHBs will not be able to establish themselves if there isn’t the European honeybee strain. Beekeepers that manage hives are best trained determine if AHBs are in an area. AHBs will be able to show signs by certain behaviors, such as the following:

Do Killer Bees Still Exist?

These “killer” bees resulted from the mating of honey bees in Brazil with bees native to southern Africa. 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?

Despite their name, a single killer bee is no deadlier than any other honeybee subspecies. Every sting produces a pheromone that signals the colony for more bees. Adults can be killed with around 1,000 stings.

What Happens If You Get Stung By A Killer Bee?

As with common honey bee stings it can also cause skin irritation, pain, and inflammation. These stings can cause an allergic reaction that may include breathing problems, abnormal heart rhythms, seizures, shock and even death. You may sustain serious kidney, liver, brain and lung damage.

Can Killer Bees Make Honey from Honey?

Africanized honeybees (killer bees) are excellent honey producers. They are even preferred by some beekeepers. … In fact killer bees are smaller than European bees, so they carry less venom. Mar 8, 2018,

.Killer Bees