Africanized Honey Bees
All of the feral (wild) honey bees in southern Arizona are presumed to be Africanized. The Africanized honey bee swarms much more frequently than other honey bees because they are originally from the African tropics and multiplying as fast as possible is simply a survival instinct. A colony is a group of bees with honeycomb and brood. The colony may either be managed (white hive boxes maintained by professional beekeepers) or wild (feral). A group of bees that are in the process of leaving their parent colony and starting a nest in a new location is called a “swarm.” Usually a new queen is reared to stay with the parent colony and the old queen flies off with the swarm. Scout bees often locate potential nest sites prior to swarming, but the swarm may spend 1-7 days clustered in impressive, hanging clumps on branches or in other temporary locations until the bees settle on a new nesting site. If they can’t find a suitable location, the bees may fly several miles and cluster again.
The Africanized honey bee may swarm as often as every six weeks and can produce a couple of separate swarms each time. This is important for you to know, because if the Africanized honey bee swarms more often, the likelihood of your encountering a swarm increases significantly. The Africanized honey bee can become highly defensive in order to protect their hive, or home. Again, it is better to consistently exercise caution with respect to all bee activity. So keep your distance from any swarm of bees.
The Africanized honey bee is far less selective about what it calls home. It will occupy a much smaller space than other honeybees. Known Africanized honey bee nesting locations include water meter boxes, metal utility poles, cement blocks, junk piles, and house eaves. Other potential nesting sites include overturned flower pots, old tires, mobile home skirts, and abandoned structures. Holes in the ground and tree limbs, mail boxes, even an empty soda pop, can could be viewed as “home” to the Africanized honey bee. The Africanized honey bee is extremely protective of their hive and brood. Their definition of their “home turf” is also much larger than the European honey bee. So, try to allow ample physical distance between the hive. At least 100 feet, or the width of a four-lane highway, is a good distance. The best advice is that if you see a bee hive, start moving away immediately.
Africanized honey bee information via: http://ars.usda.gov/
HOW DID THEY GET HERE?
In the 1950’s, Brazilian scientists brought African honey bees to crossbreed with Brazil’s local European honey bees. They hoped to produce a hybrid with greater tolerances for tropical climates and increased honey production. Several of the African bee colonies escaped into the wild and, encountering no natural enemies, thrived and successfully crossbred with European honey bees. The Africanized hybrids spread throughout South America and Central America, moving at a rate of 250 to 350 miles per year.
In May of 1991, Jesus Diaz became the first person to be attacked by these new honey bees in the U.S. He was mowing a lawn at a trailer court in the border city of Brownsville, Texas, when bees, apparently disturbed by the smell of gasoline and the vibration of the motor, began coming after him. When they started stinging his head and shoulders, he leapt from the rider -mower and ran, which is exactly what he should have done.
Africanized honey bees entered Southeastern Arizona in June 1993. An 88-year-old Apache Junction woman became Arizona’s first human fatality on October 10, 1995. She had disturbed a large Africanized honey bee colony in an abandoned building on her property and was stung numerous times.
Historical excerpt from: