What are Africanized Bees?
Africanized bees are a hybrid of imported African honey bees and the more common European honey bees. This was done in an effort to create a gentler, more manageable African bee that was better suited to the tropical climates of Central and Southern America. They were first bred in 1956 in a quarantined facility, but a year later the African bees swarmed unexpectedly and over 2 dozen queens, along with multiple European drones, escaped. The African bees then mated with the European honey bees in the area, creating the hybrid now known as Africanized bees.
African bees were first imported into Brazil. After their accidental escape, they began to spread through South America. Moving at a rate of 100 to 200 miles every year, they moved north into Central America and Mexico. By 1990, they had migrated into southern Texas. Within five years, Africanized honey bees had been sighted in Arizona and California. Today, these bees can be found in most of the southern United States, as far west as Florida.
Africanized killer bees have a similar appearance to that of the common honey bee. The only visible differences are in the coloring of the bees, and the fact that the Africanized bee is about 10% smaller than the European variety. Unfortunately, these differences are not easily distinguished by the naked eye. To be sure which species of bee is observed, specific measurements of parts of the bee must be taken, along with the coloration of those parts. Also, the wing venation patterns must be viewed. Laboratory tests called morphometric analysis determine these factors, and genetic analysis may also be necessary to help deduce whether the bee is an African and European hybrid.
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Unlike the European honey bee, the Africanized bee is more prone to aggressive behavior, and will attack to defend their hive more rapidly at the slightest hint of a threat. In fact, they will react 10 times faster to any disturbance, and have killed about 1000 people since their introduction into Brazil, with the swarm stinging 10 times more often than their gentler cousins. Not only do they swarm more often, they will even chase a person over long distances, and wait for those who try to escape under water to rise for air.
The trigger for an attack can be as simple as a loud noise near their hive, wearing perfume or something other strong odor, dark clothing or hair, or even a piece of shiny jewellery. They are also less picky than the common European honey bees about where to place their hive, so it is necessary to be observant if there is the possibility of Africanized bees in the area, be it a home, a camping site, or even a hiking trail.
Removal and Preventative Procedures
Because of the aggressive nature of the Africanized bees, there are authorities in many areas working to eradicate the dangerous hybrids. So far, there are 2 primary solutions being considered. The first is called drone-flooding, which consists of maintaining large numbers of the more common, gentler variety of European honey bees where any queens that are commercially reared may be scouting for mates. This will ensure that the queen’s ability to mate with the Africanized drones is limited, which will reduce the amount of hybrids being produced.
The second option is for a commercial beekeeper to requeen more frequently, which means replacing the colony’s queen often enough to ensure that only the calmer European queens, are in charge of the hive. This will ensure that the queen will only have European drones within the hive to mate with, and will only be able to produce non-hybrid bees.
Application of Chemicals to Remove Killer Bees
It is never a good idea to try to remove a hive of Africanized killer bees without the help of a professional. A pest control company will be able to offer professional hive removal, with the use of regulated pesticides. A local beekeeper may also be able to assist with a relocation of the offending bees. If a swarm attacks, it may even be necessary to call the police to report the incident, so they can arrange for the necessary professionals to contain the Africanized bees.