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Africanized honey bees, often referred to as “killer bees,” can be challenging to distinguish from other honey bees solely based on appearance, as they are very similar in size and color. However, there are behavioral characteristics that can help identify them. Africanized bees are known for their defensive nature. They tend to attack in larger numbers and pursue perceived threats over longer distances than European honey bees. They are also more likely to establish nests in close proximity to human activities. Moreover, they exhibit greater swarming frequency, which can be a key behavioral indicator. To confirm if bees are Africanized, it typically requires expert analysis, often involving laboratory testing of the bees’ DNA. For safety and accuracy, it’s advised to consult with an entomologist or a beekeeping expert when dealing with suspected Africanized bees.
In the below paragraphs we will take a more detailed look at the topic.
The Africanized honeybee, also known as the Africanized bee or killer bee, is a hybrid species of honeybee that results from the crossbreeding of the East African lowland honeybee with various European honeybee subspecies. The hybridization process occurred in the mid-20th century, when researchers imported African honeybees to Brazil in an attempt to improve local honeybee populations.
However, the Africanized bees quickly spread throughout South and Central America, and eventually, to parts of North America. They are now found in various regions around the world, including parts of Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East. How, then, can you tell if bees are Africanized?
Do You Have Africanized Bees?
So as mentioned then, the Africanized honeybee was the result of breeding in Brazil during the 1950’s in an effort to increase honey production. Unfortunately, twenty-six swarms escaped, subsequently spreading across the South American continent. In 1990, the Africanized honeybee was found in Texas and by 1993 were found in other hives across North America.
Africanized honeybees do not look any different to other honeybees, which makes it hard (especially for new beekeepers) to tell whether they are of this species or not. Another thing to consider is the fact that certain parts of the U.S. are considered to be ‘Africanized’ zones, which basically means where this species is more prevalent. If you live in such a zone, there is a fair chance that your queen will mate with an Africanized drone from the area. Her offspring are likely to have some of the drone’s genetics and may hence start to become more aggressive.
There is also a chance that your original queen will swarm or die and consequently be replaced by a new queen who could have some of the aggressive genes. And if your new queen is becoming defensive and aggressive, it could then start to become a problem.
How defensive your bees are will give you an indication of whether or not they are Africanized. A hive of European honeybees is likely to be gentler and will not usually see you as a direct threat unless you are less than five feet from the hive or are standing directly in front of the entrance. If your bees have been chasing you and trying to sting when you are near, this is a good indication that they may be Africanized.
If your bees are angry or agitated, they will typically bounce off your veil and fly quickly around you. They might even begin to cluster around your head. If they are lazily circling you, they are unlikely to be Africanized. If you are new to beekeeping, it is easy to become confused about what aggression is and what is normal behavior in bees that have just been disturbed. If you get to know the mood of your bees when you are about the hive, you will quickly notice the difference if they have become Africanized.
Aggressive colonies will also chase you after you have closed the hive. If your bees are docile, they may not chase you at all and will rarely follow you for more than 25ft, if they even go that far. However, Africanized bees will chase much further and will usually still be agitated for days after you have inspected the hive. If anyone approaches in the days after an inspection, they are at risk of being attacked.
Physical Characteristics of Africanized Bees
Africanized bees have some physical characteristics that set them apart from other types of bees:
Size: Africanized bees are slightly smaller than European honey bees but the difference in size is usually not noticeable to the naked eye. In general, worker bees of both Africanized and European honey bees are about 12mm in length, and queen bees are about 15mm in length.
Color: Africanized bees are often darker in color than other types of bees, with more black on their bodies and less yellow or orange. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that color alone is not a reliable indicator of whether a bee is Africanized. Bee color can vary depending on factors such as age, genetics, and diet and there can be considerable overlap in coloration between Africanized and non-Africanized bees.
Wingbeat frequency: Africanized bees have a higher wingbeat frequency than other types of bees, which gives them a distinctive buzzing sound when they fly. This is due to differences in the muscles that control wing movement, which allow Africanized bees to beat their wings faster than European honey bees. However, this difference in wingbeat frequency is also not always easy to detect without specialized equipment.
It’s important to remember that physical characteristics alone are not a reliable way to identify Africanized bees, as they can be similar to other types of bees. Other factors, such as behavior and location, are also important to consider when trying to identify bees. If you suspect that you may have encountered Africanized bees, it’s best to contact a professional beekeeper or pest control expert for assistance.
Should You Kill Africanized Bees?
As mentioned a few times already, Africanized bees are much more aggressive than European honeybees and many beekeepers, particularly those new to the hobby, have been attacked by their bees when conducting inspections. Africanized honeybees in urban areas may also attack unwitting passers-by who happen across the hive in the days after an attack. Some people assume that the best way to deal with an attacking bee is to kill it, but this is a big mistake. In fact, when a bee is attacked, it releases an alarm pheromone (scent) which alerts other bees from the colony. This scent attracts other bees and could mean an attack by more bees.
It is better to run away from bees that are attacking and, if possible, seek cover in an enclosed space such as a building or car. As Africanized bees are willing to chase for up to a mile, you will need to keep running until they stop following you. Try not to wave your arms about as this can make things worse by aggravating the bees.
Africanized bees will target the head area and tend to go for the nose, ears, mouth, and eyes, so it is advisable to cover your head with a jacket or your shirt. Cover as much of your head area as you can while not impairing your vision.
How Do You Get Rid of Africanized Bees?
If you suspect that your beehive has been infiltrated by Africanized bees, it is essential to take appropriate action to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you. The first step in getting rid of Africanized bees is to contact a local pest control company. These professionals have the necessary training and equipment to safely remove the bees without causing harm to anyone involved.
It is crucial to note that attempting to remove Africanized bees on your own can be extremely dangerous. These bees are known for their aggressive behavior and even the slightest disturbance can trigger an attack. Africanized bees can remain agitated for several days after being disturbed, making it even more challenging to remove them from your property safely.
During the removal process, the pest control company will use specialized equipment such as bee suits and smoke to calm the bees and prevent them from attacking. Once the bees have been safely removed from the beehive, the pest control company will dispose of them appropriately.
To prevent Africanized bees from invading your beehive in the future, it is essential to take certain precautions. One of the most effective ways to prevent these bees from taking over your beehive is to keep the hive clean and well-maintained. Africanized bees are attracted to dirty and unhygienic beehives, so it is crucial to clean the hive regularly and ensure that all honeycomb and wax are removed from the hive.
Additionally, it is essential to monitor your beehive regularly for signs of an infestation. If you notice any aggressive behavior or an increase in bee activity around the hive, it may be necessary to contact a professional pest control company immediately.
How Can You Tell if Bees are Africanized – Summary
To summarize then, Africanized honeybees are the result of crossbreeding between the East African lowland honeybee and various European honeybee subspecies in Brazil during the mid-20th century. These bees quickly spread across South and Central America, and eventually to parts of North America and other regions around the world. Identifying Africanized bees can be challenging since they look no different from other honeybees. However, their aggressive behavior can be a clear indication that they are Africanized. Running away and seeking shelter in an enclosed space is the best course of action if attacked by Africanized bees. Attempting to remove them on your own is extremely dangerous, and it is best to contact a professional pest control company. Keeping the beehive clean and well-maintained and regularly monitoring it for signs of an infestation can help prevent Africanized bees from taking over. It is crucial to take appropriate action to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you if you suspect that your beehive has been infiltrated by Africanized bees.
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Beekeeping, like any agricultural activity, involves inherent risks. It is important to understand these risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them.
Potential risks associated with beekeeping include:
- Bee stings: Honey bees are generally not aggressive but can become defensive if they feel threatened or their hive is disturbed. Bee stings can cause allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis in some individuals, which can be life-threatening. It is important to wear protective clothing and follow best practices when handling bees to minimize the risk of stings.
- Diseases and pests: Bees can be vulnerable to various diseases and pests, including mites, viruses, and bacterial infections. These can have significant impacts on bee colonies, leading to reduced honey production or even colony collapse. It is important to monitor hives regularly and take appropriate measures to prevent and treat diseases and pests.
- Weather conditions: Extreme weather conditions, such as drought or cold temperatures, can affect the health and productivity of bee colonies. It is important to ensure that hives are appropriately sheltered and provided with adequate food and water.
- Environmental hazards: Bees can be affected by environmental hazards such as pesticide exposure, pollution, and habitat loss. It is important to be aware of these hazards and take appropriate measures to protect bee colonies and promote healthy environments for bees.
- Legal requirements: Beekeeping may be subject to local, state, or national regulations, such as registration or inspection requirements. It is important to be aware of these requirements and comply with them.
While beekeeping can be a rewarding and enjoyable activity, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. By following best practices and staying informed about the latest developments in beekeeping, beekeepers can help ensure the health and productivity of their hives and contribute to the well-being of bee populations worldwide.
Last update on 2024-03-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API