The killer bee that is also known as Africanized honey bee is a hybrid form of Western honey bee species. The scientific name given to the species is Apis mellifera. These bees were originally come into existence by cross breeding of African honey bee with European honey bees. The African honey bee species A.m. scutellate, mated with different European honey bees like Italian bee scientifically named as A. m. Ligustica and Iberian bee scientifically named as A. m. Iberiensis.
As their name depicts, these bees are exceptional pest insects with the ability to keep humans frightened from the time they have come into existence. They were introduced for the purpose of increasing honey production, but the results came into a species that is more aggressive and had an ability to produce less honey. In this article, we will discuss basic useful information about killer bees, their relationship with human society, their attacks on humans and the ways to get rid of this disastrous insect.
Table of Contents
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- Killer Bees Facts
- Africanized Honey Bee Vs. European Honey Bee
- Relationship Between Killer Bees and Human Society
- Impact on Apiculture
- How to Control Killer Bees
- Two Primary Strategies to Get Rid of Them
Killer Bees Facts
The general facts about killer bees are almost similar to other species of honey bees. However, there are slight differences that are shown by killer bees. Here, in this section, we will confer killer bees’ physical appearance, diet, range, habitat, reproduction and life cycle.
Appearance and size
Killer bees are a small insect. Their body size approximately equals to ¾ of an inch like other common bees. From their appearance, killer bees almost look similar to other honey bees, and one needs to be a bee expert to identify them among other bee species. Like other bees, they also have the general appearance of the body consists of three segments head, thorax, and abdomen. These bees are brown in color with vigorous, brown in color and the body is covered fully with fuzz. They also contain black stripes on their body, but they are not as distinct as they are in hornets and wasps. Killer bees possess four wings that are connected to the middle region of their body that is thorax.
Despite having four wings, they are not an expert flyer. However, they have a temperament to chase their victim till 1/4th of a mile. They also contain three pairs of legs attached to the end of the thorax. Among all three body section, killer bees’ head is the smallest, and the abdomen is the largest region. They also contain spherical two complex large eyes that have exceptional ability to see ultraviolet rays. Thus, killer bees can fly perfectly at night. Among all three embers of their social structure, the queen bees are largest, and the worker bees are the smallest. Unlike appearance, killer bees show quite different behavior as compared to other bees. They possess venom, and a single killer bee can produce 0.1 mg of venom. They produce less honey as compared to European bees.
Diet and food
Like other honey bees, killer bees also feed on nectar and pollens extracted from flowers. They obtain sugar from nectar and protein from pollens. Sometimes, bees also feed on this honey. Unlike their rival European bees, they can survive on the even small amount of food. Among three social groups, worker bees are given honey, nectar, pollen and royal jelly, which is a secretion produced by worker bees. After taking this diet for six days, they leave their larval stage. On the other hand, drones are fed on the same food for eight days, and the queen is given royal jelly only till they time they converted into a full adult.
Range and habitat
Killer bees came into existence in Piracicaba, Brazil. After that, they began spreading to different regions like Central and South America. From these two regions, they traveled to the US and Mexico. After spreading into different regions, now they can be seen in many regions of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California.
Unlike European bees, these bees are highly adaptive and can be seen residing inside many synthetic objects like trash cans, rock piles, wall cracks, draining pipes, tree hollows, rotten logs, and tires. These bees usually swarm more frequently as compared to other bees. They make small nests, and they usually abandon them frequently and then they swarm with the queen in search of the new hive. Moreover, they swarm in a group of ten thousand worker bees following their queen. Inside the hive, they live in the form of colonies and depict complex social structure consisting of queen, drones and worker bees.
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Reproduction and life cycle
Killer bees, like other bees, passes through complete metamorphosis stage before they become an adult. Their four development stages include egg, larvae, pupae, and adult bees. The egg phase is the first phase of their life cycle. In this stage, internal organ along with skin, nervous system and many other features of bees develop. This stage is completed in only two to three days, and then the larvae that almost look like a worm emerges from the egg.
The next phase is larvae stage. During this phase, wings, legs and other organs of larvae grow. It is the most critical stage of bees’ development. Any deficiency of food or carelessness will result in larvae ending their life during pupae stage. Therefore, special care regarding their diet is given by worker bees at this stage. The third phase is pupae stage, in which bees are almost grown up. They stay dormant in this stage and wait to become fully strong. After this stage, they emerge out as an adult from their hives and start performing their duties according to their social status (queen, drone or workers).
Africanized Honey Bee Vs. European Honey Bee
African honey bees and European honey bees are same species of honey bees, but their different sub-species differentiate them. The European honey bees were introduced back in the 1500s by Europeans, and they were kept mainly by beekeeper because of their increased honey production, honey storage behavior, gentleness, and reduced swarmings. The African honey bee was introduced in the 1950s in the results of efforts that were made to increase honey production. By chance, this species swarmed and established their new colony in Brazil native environment. That is how these species started.
Now, we will discuss the differences between both.
- The major difference between European and Africanized honey bees exists in the way of their defensive response. African honey bee if disturbed sends almost hundreds of guard bees after their enemy and they can chase the victim as far as a quarter mile resulting into 100 to 100 strings. Also once they are agitated, they stay restless for several hours or until sun sets. On the other hand, European bees if disturbed sends almost 10 to 20 guard bees to chase their enemy till 20 feet distance only. Also, they after getting agitated, calm down in just 10 to 15 minutes.
- European honey bee rarely swarms as compared to Africanized honey bees. They only swarm once a year and that too in a huge group. They also need a large volume of nesting to accommodate this group. On the other hand, Africanized honey bees swarm more than ten times per year. They swarm in a small group and can make their nest in a small volume of nesting.
- The Africanized honey bees are slightly smaller as compared to European honey bees. This difference can only be observed under a microscope.
Relationship Between Killer Bees and Human Society
By the time these killer bees have been introduced, they have been proven dangerous for human beings. According to one report, average one to two death has been reported by these killer bees. This species of honey bees might have few benefits too, but overall, this honey bee species is considered highly dangerous, and that is why many people unlike it.
Many people find Africanized bees more frightening as compared to other species. The reason could be releasing of few movies related to these bees. However, the fact is their venom is as potent as compared to European bees. However, they attack in a large group and have the ability to inject venom multiples time make it a dangerous species. Additionally, the fact that they can be triggered or provoked to attack easily and don’t stop following their victim makes them people frightened more from them.
Killer bees attack
The sting of killer bees produces venom that is as dangerous as European honey bees’ venom. However, few factors make them more dangerous and suitable for the title of killer bees. They attack in a group and victim has to face multiple stings at a time that can be proved fatal for them. After stinging, killer bees discharge a chemical that smells like a ripe banana. This smell makes other bees alert, and they all attack the victim in the result. Unlike other bees, they don’t get peaceful soon after chasing their victim. Rather they stay agitated almost for a day and chase their victim for an almost quarter a mile. A single sting is enough for those people having allergic bodies, and for normal people, this group attack might cause their death.
Treatments when attacked
If you are visiting an area stuffed with killer bees or you are suspecting bees’ attack, then following preventive measures should be taken:
- Always wear light-colored garments while passing through or visiting area containing killer bees
- Don’t make any loud noise near bees hive.
- Don’t wear any shining jewelry or perfumes with a strong smell near their hive, as it will trigger them to attack you.
- If bees have attacked you, then despite pushing them away from your body, simply run as fast as you can in a straight line. Make sure to run at least a quarter mile.
- While running, make sure to hide your sensitive areas, head, and face.
- Seek any sheltered place or building to prevent their attack.
- Don’t go inside the water, as bees will wait for you outside the water for a long period.
Besides taking all preventive measures, if bees still attack you, then take following measures:
- When killer bees sting a person, they leave their stinger inside the skin. Therefore, the first step should b to remove the sting
- Avoid using tweezers or fingers for pulling stingers out. It will squeeze more venom inside your skin. Therefore, it is better to scratch stinger away from your fingernail, credit card or any other such things.
- If you feel that you have been stung more than 15 times or if you feel ill, then seek medical help immediately. Few people are allergic to bee’s sting, and this sting can be fatal for them. However, a general perception is that 500 stings can kill the kid and for adults, more than 1100 stings cause the death.
Impact on Apiculture
In those areas where the climate is moderate, Africanized bees usually perform better than European bees’ colonies because of their survival characteristics. They also have the ability to perform better under those conditions where European bees remain inside their hive. It is the reason, Africanized bees are now considered as superior species for honey production as compared to their cousin European bees. According to research, an area containing a higher population of these bees tends to produce more honey as compared to others. Also, these bees contain higher resistance to several diseases like Varroa destructor, fungal diseases like chalkbrood and mysterious colony collapse disorder.
These bees have some negative characteristics too especially it is difficult to handle them. However, few species of Africanized are introduced that are showing less aggressive behavior as compared to their previous generations. Therefore, keeping in mind these benefits, there is a possibility that Africanized bees might prove useful for apiculture in future.
How to Control Killer Bees
The first step in controlling killer bee is to identify the type of bees residing in your locality. For this, examine bees through their appearance. All bees are not killer bees, and therefore, are not dangerous. Killer bees are slightly smaller with golden brown color along with thin fur on their bodies. If you have identified the beehive as killer bees’ hive, then take following steps to control them.
Pesticides sprays can be used to get rid of killer bees quickly and completely. Cover all body parts with a thick cloth and especially cover your nose and mouth to stay safe against intense insecticide spray. Spray this pesticide on a beehive in plenty of amounts to kill them.
Boric acid or borax
Borax acid or borax can also be used to get rid of killer bees. It can be injected to the bees by making bait in which only a small amount of borax is added not to deter bees away from the bait.
Soap and water
Another effective and natural remedy to get rid of killer bees is to use a spray of water and soap. Take one part of liquid soap and four parts of water. Cover your whole body with thick cloth and spray this solution on their hive to rinse it properly and remove all bees might present inside. After that, their hive can be removed and burnt.
Fill in all cracks and crevices
As killer bees can make their hives anywhere, they found it suitable. Therefore, there are very high chances that they can make their hive inside small holes or cracks present in your home. Therefore, to get rid of them all cracks, holes and wall crevices should be sealed properly.
Call a professional
Call any specialized services company to remove beehive and infestation from your area. However, if you do not get any expert, then fire department and other such service providers can also help you in this regard. Removing bees through professionals is the safest way of getting rid of these bees.
Two Primary Strategies to Get Rid of Them
It is more beneficial to remove or eliminate the chances of their reproduction to get rid of these Africanized bees. For this, two primary strategies can be performed. One is drone-flooding, and the other is requeening frequently.
Drone-flooding is a technique in which a large number of common honey bees that are more from the European honey bee type is introduced in the area where commercially raised queen bee mates. As normally, the number of Africanized drones is larger as compared to European drone, and this result in increased population of former bees as compared to the later ones. Therefore the drone-flooding of European bees may decrease this possibility and will reduce the population of Africanized bees.
This strategy involves replacing queen of the colony and replaces it with European queens. It will again reduce the chances of mating with Africanized bees.
We have discussed basic details of killer bees and their general characteristics. After reading this, you might get an idea about their dangerous nature and reason behind this name ‘killer.’ Though, these bees also show some positive characteristics that insist beekeepers keep killer bees as well. However, overall they are considered dangerous species. Besides, basic physical features and their habits, we have also discussed their way of stinging, treatment and methods to get rid of them properly. It is advisable to refrain interacting or facing killer bees in all possible ways. However, if it is inevitable, then methods mentioned above along with other precautionary measures should be taken to prevent any accident.