African Bees vs Honey Bees: An Invasive Species?

Africanized bees belong to the order of Hymenoptera of the Insecta class. Their scientific family is Apidae. These are a special breed of bees. They are a hybrid between European and African both honey bees. The specific scientific names are Apis mellifera and A.m. scutellata respectively. Are the two any different? Is it possible to know how to identify Africanized honey bees? When it come to their appearance it is very hard to differentiate them from the common European Honey Bee. The only thing that sets them apart is their behavior. These insects are known to move together in swarms. They mostly attach themselves to flowering plants. This is where they pitch tent or rather set up their hives. Their larvae are usually attached to the walls of these hives. When they are eggs, separation starts to take place. They are divided into individual cells that later grow into ribbed, white, and slender larvae. However, at this stage they do not have any legs so they remain intact in the cells. When it reaches the pupating stage, the working bees set in and cap the individual cells. An adult is fully formed after the pupation stage ends. However, unlike other bees, these ones can be easily classified as pests. They are a danger not only to the human life but also animals as well as the environments.

In the 1950’s, Brazil started the growth of their honey industry which automatically led to the need to hybridize Africanized Bees. Sometime in 1956, colonies of African Honey Bees were exported from Africa to Brazil.  It came to being as a result of an African entomologist contracted by the Brazilian government at the time. He was called Warwick E. Kerr.


It had become a proven fact that the European honey bees were not able to live for long so were unable to meet the demands that the country had for honey. The new breed was meant to survive in the tropical climate of South America. The bees were isolated from all other places in a special apiary. A lot of care was taken in order to ensure that the bees were kept intact and could not sneak out and make contact with the others. Special equipment such as excluders which were large screens were developed and designed to specifically keep the bees caged in. With time, it became more apparent that the new breed was very aggressive and could not be compared to the other species. They had special characteristics as had been noted by Kerr such as a huge difference in their defense circumference.  However, 7 years later after their creation, there was an accident, a beekeeper noticed that Kerr’s new breed workers had no freedom to maneuver as much and proposed moving them. It is during the move that more than two dozen of the queens ended up being accidentally released. The queens sort the European honey bees out and this led to hybridization. From there, they flew north to South America and Central Mexico. Later on it was spotted in Texas in the mid 1990’s.

African Bees vs. Honey Bees

There are many notable differences between Africanized bees and normal honey bees. Africanized bees are a bit smaller but most of their differences manifest in the behavior. Africanized bees are, by far more aggressive, territorial, and defensive compared to the others. According to research the differences must have been because of selection pressures. Unlike in Africa, other parts of the world were lenient in their ways of harvesting honey, the bees were easy to manage hence were handled with a lot of gentleness while in Africa the colonies were destroyed and the process was more of honey hunting rather than bee keeping. This made the African honey bees more defensive and the hybridization heightened this. Their aggression can be seen in how they choose to attack anyone or anything that intrudes their hives. When it comes to Africanized bees vs honey bees, the former attacks in small numbers at most being 20 while the later ones sends hundreds to protect the nest. The fact that the Africanized bees send out large numbers of their kind to protect and form a large radius enables them to kill large animals even a man. They require little to no stimulus to do this hence the nickname “killer-bees”. However, it is important to note that Africanized bees sting are not more venomous and as a matter of fact, due to their size they might be produce less poison. Their strength lies solely in numbers and aggression.

Africanized Honey Bees
Honey Bees

When it comes to reproduction and nest abandoning, the Africanized bees also take the lead. Mostly, these types of insects swarm more than the normal bees. This means they split their colonies to form new ones. This increases their rate of reproduction. With swarming comes the need to split the colonies in order to create new ones.  Another notable difference is where they choose to locate their nests. The Africanized bees’ habitat is less selective compared to the rest of the other species.

Damage Caused

The aggressive nature of the Africanized bees automatically makes them a danger to human beings. This especially applies to people who cannot easily defend themselves like small kids, the handicapped people who cannot move fast, and also the elderly. Vibrations from objects are among the key agitators of these bees and they are mostly used by humans.

Africanized Honey Bees

Equipment such as tractors, land mowers, among many others gives the bees an impression that they are under attack leading them to attack. More so, the choice of location is always close to human proximity thus heightening the dangers of attacking us. The bees not only attack in numbers but also cover a huge mileage so when aggravated, they go around causing damage to all people and animals within its vicinity. The beekeeping industry is also disrupted by this species given they are very difficult to manage or remain locked in. They also force the domesticated bees out of their nests posing another difficulty to the beekeepers. They invade and since they are quick to swarm, the other bees stand no chance against them.

One of the best ways to prevent these attacks is by totally destroying their habitats using pesticides. Another one is by making sure that people stay away from the nests and there is more attention being paid when bees are moving around. This can help people establish if a nest is being set up nearby. A statistics done in the US shows that most people who suffer from these attacks do so out of negligence, they know that there are nests set up nearby but refuse to have it removed or in rare cases, choose to do it themselves despite knowing the dangers. However, if an attack cannot be prevented one the precautions someone should use is to either run away as fast as possible covering his or her head with a shirt or sweater, or lie flat on the ground and make no movement. This especially applies to a flat are like the airport. Finding distractions for the bees such as running through bushes or trees will also minimize the damage that will be caused. One of the key things to always remember is that their attack is meant to defend their nest so the further you are from it, the better chance you get to survive. Standing at the same spot and trying to swat them is a bad idea since they will overpower you. Hiding somewhere such as bushes or even jumping inside water will not be of any help since the bees do not disperse immediately but rather stay protecting the radius for a sometime to discern if it is safe. If stung, a person can quickly tell the severity depending on the rate of inflammation and breathing. There are many people who are allergic to them and can therefore react very easily. If it is not as severe, instead of pulling the sting out, an effective method would be to try and scrap it off. In both cases, consulting a medic is advised.

Economic Impact

One of the worst economic impacts that these bees have has to be the loss of animals and human lives. Most farmers have tragically lost their livestock like numbers of cattle because of the bees. A human life on the other hand is an even immeasurable amount of loss to not only families but states at large.

Africanized Honey Bees

Their economic contribution comes to an instant halt when they lose their lives and the emotional damage left behind is atrocious. The cost that also goes into medical care that is used to treat patients who have severe allergic reactions and those who have been stung numerous times is also huge. A lot of money is also being pumped into educating people about these bees and the dangers that they pose on human beings. People are taught on how to eradicate or stay away from them in case any danger arises. This requires a lot of funding that could have been otherwise channeled elsewhere.

There is a lot of economical input from the bee keeping sector that is being interrupted by the Africanized bees. There would be a lot of loss if they eventually manage to colonize a country like the United States. This would result to losses of millions all garnered from different areas for example the sale of Queens and bees are estimated to be around 11 million US dollars, the number of farmers who have specialized in beekeeping will eventually reduce in large numbers meaning that wax and honey production will cease and it brings in more than 42 million US dollars, and finally, an additional 100 plus million US dollars that goes into pollination rental income will be lost too. By the Africanized bees forcing all the other bees out, there will be a loss in the general agricultural sector that is dependent on honey bee pollination for specific crops. By 2005, this part of the economy brought in over 3.9 million US dollars that have decreased with time. The bee colonies have greatly reduced ever since this invasion. This has led to the increased costs because of the lower yields that come from nuts, fruits, seed crops, and vegetables.

The invasion of these bees has also played a role in discouraging outdoor activities especially for the elderly and families with young kids. The discouragement has also spread to the tourist section affecting it as well since people are apprehensive to be exposed to such environments.

The bees also have brought a negative impact on the environment especially in the flora and fauna areas. It is not greatly documented but it has indeed increased over the years since the colonies of the bees have increased and spread wider.


1) Use Of Pesticide

The major thing that is used to control the bees is pest control. Pesticides that are powerful helps eradicate them through suffocation and after that it will be easy to remove the hive. The bees are so dangerous that they should be eradicated. Human life cannot be quantified and destroying the hives is part of the major solutions to this problem.

2) Use Of Professional Removal Service

Getting a professional to come physically remove the bees is a good idea. If you do it yourself you are exposing yourself to the risk of getting attacked. The professionals have good skills such as using white clothes. Studies have shown that bees are more prone to attacking dark colors therefore the experts put on white gear especially the masks when working with them to prevent any unnecessary aggression.  They also know how to get rid of the hives to ensure that the bees do not come back.

3) Avoid Beekeeping of Africanized Bees

The US officially discouraged beekeeping of this species due to their harmful nature but it still remains acceptable in parts such as South Africa and South America.

4) Using Smoke When Handling These Bees

For those who disregard the warning of keeping these bees, they can use smoke as a tact that helps prevents the bees from attacking. During working, they use smoke which acts as a pheromone that lessens the defensive instincts that the “killer bees” have. However, this can only be done before work starts, if done during the process; it might not work since the bees will already be aggravated.

5) Separating Colonies

In South America, these bees are still kept but modifications are used to keep people safe from the bees. Each colony is secluded from the next by ensuring that each has its individual hive stand. This limits the aggression of the bees when trying to extract honey from only one.

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