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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Africanized Honey Bees
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1 - Why honey bees are important
2 - How the African honey bee differs from the European honey bee
3 - What to do if Attacked by Africanized honey bees
4 - Preparing schools for Africanized honey bees
5 - How to subdue attacking bees - a guide for Fire Fighters and Rescue Personnel
6 - Map of the spread of Africanized honey bee by year
How the African honey bee differs from the European honey bee
The behavior- not the appearance - of the AHB is different from the EHB in four major ways:

The AHB swarms much more frequently than other honey bees. A colony is a group of bees with comb 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 a day or two 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.

Typically an EHB hive will swarm once every 12 months. However, the AHB 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 AHB swarms more often, the likelihood of your encountering an AHB swarm increases significantly.

Regardless of myths to the contrary, Africanized honey bees do not fly out in angry swarms to randomly attack unlucky victims. However, the AHB can become highly defensive in order to protect their hive, or home. Again, it is now better to consistently exercise caution with respect to all bee activity. So keep your distance from any swarm of bees.

The AHB is far less selective about what it calls home. The AHB will occupy a much smaller space than the EHB. Known AHB 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 AHB.

The Africanized honey bee is extremely protective of their hive and brood. The AHB's 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.

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Last Modified: 11/10/2011
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