Photographer: Pest and Diseases Image Library Source: www.bugwood.org Copyright: CC BY-NC 3.0
Adult Description: Africanized honey bees (AHBs) are a hybrid of the European honeybee (Apis mellifera) and the Africa honeybee (A.m. scutellata). They are very similar in appearance to the European honeybee. However, it is their behavior that truly distinguishes them from their docile European cousins. Africanized bees are extremely aggressive and are known to swarm and chase anything that disturbs the hive.
Larva Description: The larvae of Apidae remain within the walls of the hive. As eggs, they are placed into individual cells and grow into white, slender, and ribbed larvae. The larvae have no feet and remain in the individual cells. When the larvae is ready to pupate the worker bees cap the cell. After pupation, an adult bee will emerge from the cell.
Host Plant: All flowering plants.
Africanized bees are far more aggressive that European bees, making them more competitive for the same niche. Also, since the Africanized been can hybridize with the European bees it allows them to outcompete the European bees. Since AHBs are quick to swarm, they can force the domesticated bees out of their hives. This makes the Africanized bees a threat to the honey industry. AHB are less likely to store honey like the domesticated bees and AHBs are quick to abandon a hive. So if AHBs take over a beekeeper’s hive there will be a negative economic impact on the honey industry and the people who depend on the honey industry.
Adult Africanized bee workers grow to an average of about 19mm which is smaller than the average size of the European bee. Female worker bees live for about a month, while male drones survive for 5-10 weeks, and the queen can live 1 to 3 years. The male drones are only used for reproductive purposes. The queen mates with male drones in a swarming fashion but only does this once because she can mate with several drones and store the sperm for her entire lifetime to produce offspring. The queen is able to reproduce year round because of the stored sperm. The sting of the AHB is no worse than the European counterpart, but it is the mass of stings AHBs will administer because of their aggressive behavior.
The growth of the honey industry in Brazil in the 1950’s drove the hybridization of the AHB. This hybrid bee was purposefully created by Brazilian entomologists because the European honeybee wasn’t able to survive for long enough to support the demand for honey. In 1957 there was an accidental release of more than two-dozen Queens. The released Queens were able to hybridize with the naturalized European bees. The AHBs flew north from Brazil to Central America to Mexico and in 1990 were identified near Hidalgo, TX. However, an eastward expansion of AHBs past Texas didn’t occur until 2005 because of the relatively high precipitation level in the Southeastern United States.
Native Origin: Africa
U.S. Habitat: AHBs are prominent in the Southwestern and Southeastern United States. They are known to take over domesticated bees' hives and can be found anywhere European bees are. Northern expansion is not anticipated to happen because the Africanized Honey Bees have a low tolerance for low temperatures.
U.S. Present: AR, AZ, CA, FL, LA, NM, NV, OK and TX
In general, the management of African bee colonies has been discouraged in the U.S. while accepted in Central and South America. The introduction of parasitic mites, the genus Varroa, were originally found on related honeybee species in Asia. Apis mellifera bees, for the most part, have no natural defenses, so when these crab-like arachnids are introduced into a hive, they quickly build up to such levels that there aren't enough bees left to keep the hive going. Since the AHBs hybridize with the European bees, this would make them susceptible to the Varroa mites. Pesticides can be used on AHBs, but AHBs tend to have a stronger resistance to pesticides than their European counterparts.
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