After a long cold winter, the signs of spring are everywhere. Warmer weather, flowers and trees are in bloom and bees buzzing around. Every year we always seem to hear about an attack from Africanized killer bees that fill us with fear. A biologist in Brazil interbred a hybrid of honey bees in the late 1950’s that produced the Africanized honey bee (AHB). The AHB spread from brazil south to Argentina, throughout Central America and north into the lower parts of the United States. When you see a bee, there’s no way to tell right away if you’re dealing with an AHB or a European honey bee (EHB). They are both honey bees that have the same venom, a lot of the same habits and the similar basic colony structures.
Difference Between Africanized Killer Bees & European Honey Bees
They are physically similar in appearance. They look almost identical but the AHB is about 10% smaller than the EHB. This difference is so small that it can’t be seen with the naked eye. It’s even hard for experienced bee keepers to tell the difference. African honey bees are also called “killer bees” because they are much more aggressive than European honey bees (EHB) when defending from an attack. Up to 90% of the bees will form into a group to attack where the European bees will use about 10% of the population. All bees will become aggressive if they are provoked. Killer bees are also more easily agitated than regular honey bees. They can get agitated at distances of up to 100 feet from the hive location and regular honey bees will get more agitated with closer interaction. Getting involved with hives will result in stings. AHB can deliver as many as a thousand stings if bothered and 10-20 stings from an EHB hive. They both are different in how long they stay aggressive. Typical EHB will calm done about 20 minutes after an attack while AHB can stay aggressive for hours.
Foraging & Swarming Patterns of Bees
Africanized and European honey bees will forage differently too. Africanized honey bees usually go solo when they forage for pollen and will also pick different times to forage than the EHB. The AHB will spend more time in the early morning or late in the evening and EHB can be seen more through the day. They also don’t mind less than sunny weather to forage and EHB prefer sunny days and don’t like rain or cooler temperatures. Swarming patterns are different too. Swarming happens when a queen leaves the hive and is followed by thousands of worker bees. To look for a new hive, the EHB will swarm once a year while the AHB can swarm 6-12 times a year because they have smaller nests. This is the reason beekeepers will look for AHB more than EHB. This constant swarming will reduce the number of bees that are left in the hive and will force them to welcome new queens on a regular basis. This frequency results in smaller AHB swarms than their European counterpart.
Bee Control & Removal
Africanized honey bees are very aggressive and it’s important to leave it to the professionals to figure out if you’re dealing with them. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Contact Stewart Termite & Pest Control today!