What is a Killer Bee?

by April Reinhardt
(last updated May 22, 2009)

In 1956, Brazilian scientists attempted to breed a honeybee better able to withstand the South American heat. Some of the honeybees escaped quarantine in 1957 and they bred with local Brazilian honeybees. The next generation of those bees multiplied quickly, and extended their range throughout South and Central America at a rate of more than 200 miles per year.

The descendants of that first generation of crossbred honeybees are known as the Africanized Honey Bee, also called the Killer Bee, since they will viciously attack mammals that unwittingly stray into their territory. The Killer Bee will attack even if unprovoked, proving that it is unnecessary to disturb the hive itself before an attack occurs. In some areas, the insects swarm and attack in response to noise, vibration from vehicles or running equipment, the sound and vibration of music, or even the sound or vibration of soft footsteps.

Contrary to popular myth, the venom of the Killer Bee is no more powerful than that of the regular honeybee. The reason that the attacks of the Killer Bee are oftentimes fatal is because of the number of bees that participate in the attack, and the fact that the Killer Bee will pursue perceived enemies for far greater distances than does a regular honeybee. In fact, Killer Bee colonies can remain agitated for twenty-four hours and attack mammals as far away as a quarter mile from their hive.

Since the initial crossbreeding of bees in 1957, the Killer Bees have formed more complex hybrid populations, breeding with other types of honeybee, such as the European variety. Killer Bees have gradually migrated northward through South America, into Central America and eastern Mexico, traveling up to 200 miles each year. In early 1990, Killer Bees reached southern Texas and have since migrated into parts of Arizona and California.

How can you tell if you have Killer Bees instead of regular honeybees? Only an expert can tell the difference, since they look nearly exactly the same. Here are a few facts about Killer Bees:

  • Killer Bees are slightly smaller than regular honeybees.
  • They are extremely aggressive and sting in greater numbers.
  • They do not have more venom than regular honeybees.
  • Just as with regular honeybees, each bee can only sting one time, and females die after stinging.
  • Killer Bees are less selective than regular honeybees about where they form a hive

If you suspect that you have a Killer Bee hive, call a professional exterminator and do not disturb the bees.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...


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