The Africanized Honey Bee (AHB), was made notorious from press releases as the “killer bee,” and is a result of matings between the African bee subspecies and European honey bees. These bees are not easily distinguished from domestic honey bees and have spread throughout the southern United States. AHB’s can be found in southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana and central and southern Florida.
Africanized Honey Bee Habitat
A common difference between Africanized and European honey bees is their choice of nest locations. AHB’s are less selective when seeking out a potential nesting site. Colonies are smaller and have been found in water meter boxes, cement blocks, barbeque grills, cavities in the ground, and hanging exposed from tree limbs. European honey bees are rarely found in these locations as they prefer larger nesting sites like chimneys and tree hollows. Humans inadvertently provide multiple nesting sites for AHB’s, which is the primary reason AHB’s are frequently encountered by humans.
Africanized Honey Bee Behavior – Threats – Dangers
Africanized honey bees can be a public health concern because they are more likely to sting than “typical” honey bees. Although AHB’s are more unpredictable and defensive than domestic honey bees, they generally react only when their nests are threatened. AHB’s are provoked to attack sources of loud noise and vibrations, as well as, large, dark-colored moving objects that occur within 50-150 feet from the colony. AHB’s have been known to pursue their victims for more than 500 feet. Children, the elderly, and handicapped individuals are at the highest risk of an attack due to their inability or hampered ability to escape an attack.
AHB venom is no more dangerous than that of domestic honey bees. However, these bees will attack in greater numbers, which poses more danger to humans. If under attack by AHB, run quickly in a zig-zag pattern and seek shelter indoors or in a car. Experts do not recommend jumping into water to avoid AHB, as they will wait above the surface for their target to emerge.
Africanized Honey Bee Prevention
Homeowners can help prevent an AHB attack by limiting potential nesting sites. Remove any unnecessary debris, like leaf litter, wood pile and cellulose debris from your yard. Seal cracks and crevices around the foundations of your home with small-mesh hardware cloth or caulk. This will limit bee access to potential nesting sites. Finally, check water boxes, walls and eaves of structures regularly, looking for bee activity.