Information about Africanized Honeybees:
African Honey Bee
Why is the African bee called the 'killer' bee?
Although all honey bees will sting when their nest is threatened by
invaders, African bees defend their nests with less provocation, in
greater numbers and for longer distances than their cousins, the
docile European honey bees that we have in the U.S.
|How else is the African bee different from our domestic
The African bee is slightly smaller than our domestic bee, but it
takes a laboratory test to measure the difference. A single African
bee sting is no more venomous than a single European bee sting. The
most important difference is in their behavior. African bees produce
more offspring, defend their nests much more fiercely and in greater
numbers and are more likely to abandon the nest (abscond) when
threatened by predators or adverse environmental conditions.
|How did African bees come to North America?
Researchers brought the African bees to Brazil in the 1950s in an
attempt to improve the productivity of Brazilian bees. A large wild
population quickly developed and spread through South America,
Central America and Mexico.
|What happens now that African bees are in Florida?
The Africanized honey bee (AHB) population has grown and
will continue to grow in Florida due to its numerous pathways into
the state and the lack of effective eradication products or
techniques. The Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer
Services, in cooperation with other agricultural stakeholders, is
developing the tools to protect the beekeeping industry and educate
the public on how to learn to live with this potentially dangerous
insect. At some point, the defensive behavior of these bees will
become more common.
|Will African bees try to hurt people?
No bees try to hurt people. They are simply defending their
territory. If people disturb the hive or if a hive is accidentally
disturbed, the bees are likely to react adversely. Generally, the
chances of being struck by lightning are far greater than injury
from any stinging insect.
|How should people avoid African bees?
Avoid all bees, just as you would any stinging insect - scorpion or
spider - or a poisonous snake. In the case of bees, awareness is
important. Never climb a large tree or kick a felled tree or stump.
Do not roll a large rock or log until checking if foraging bees are
entering and leaving the area. When hiking in the country, keep an
escape route in mind at all times.
|How do you get away from stinging bees?
RUN. Bees tend to sting the face and head, so try to cover your nose
and mouth with your hands while running. Never stand still or get
yourself boxed into a place outdoors where you cannot escape the
attacking bees. SEEK SHELTER. Run for an enclosed building or
vehicle. DO NOT LOCK THE DOORS! Others may be trying to escape the
bees as well. Bees that do get inside usually become disoriented and
go to the light at the windows.
|What is Florida doing about the African bee?
For the last decade, Florida has been surveying for the AHB and
established the country's first AHB detection program that is
jointly operated by the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer
Services and the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The program
involves placing bait hives in ports, and educating ships' crews and
dockworkers to identify and report suspicious swarms. Today, nearly
500 bait hives are in place throughout the state, primarily in port
areas, along Interstate-10 and on the Florida/Alabama border. The
bait hives are checked on a three-week cycle based on the
reproduction habits of the AHB. In addition, the Department is
participating in developing educational outreach programs to inform
the public about the potential dangers of the African bees.
|What will the African bee mean to the state of Florida?
Florida's honey industry is consistently ranked among the top five
in the nation with an annual worth of more than $13 million. Honey
bee pollination is of even greater value, enabling farmers
nationwide to harvest a bounty of crops from soybeans to avocados.
When African bees become established here, beekeepers' bees may have
less forage areas. If stinging incidents occur without public
understanding of the threat, unwarranted fear could result in an
unnecessary curtailing of beekeeping operations. However, if the
public is willing to learn some basic safety measures and the
necessity of reporting feral (wild) swarms, and if the beekeepers,
regulatory and public safety agencies are willing to take on
additional responsibilities, we will be able to safely co-exist with
the African bees.
|Do managed bee hives (kept by beekeepers) help stop
Yes, managed hives are the first and best defense against an area
becoming Africanized. Managed bees dilute AHB populations, prevent
AHB take over of European honey bee hives, and AHB are less
attracted to areas were other foragers exist.