Africanized Honey Bees
For more detailed information on honeybee safety and Africanization, please visit Southern AZ Beekeepers website.
The behavior, rather than the appearance, of the Africanized honey bee (AHB) sets
them apart from the European honey bee (EHB) in several significant ways:
1 . High Tendency to Swarm: 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." When the colony
swarms, 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 new nest sites prior to swarming, but
the swarm may spend a day or two clustered in impressive, large clumps hanging 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.
Swarms that are exposed like this are vulnerable and will typically leave within 24-48
Typically an EHB colony will swarm once every 12 months. However, the AHB colony
may swarm as often as every six weeks during swarm season and can produce multiple
separate swarms each time.
Swarms are generally docile regardless of type. This is because the swarm has no
resources (brood, queen, food) to protect. They can actually be quite vulnerable during
the swarming process, as they are without the protection of a home. Africanized honey
bees do not fly out in angry swarms to randomly attack unlucky victims. Stinging
incidents by Africhoneybees occur when the actual nest sight, not the swarm, is
2. Less Selective Nesting Sites: The AHB is far less selective about what it calls home
and will occupy a much smaller space than the EHB. AHB nesting locations include
water meter boxes, metal utility poles, cement blocks, junk piles, house eaves, hollow
tree limbs, overturned flower pots, old tires, mobile home skirts, and abandoned
structures. When the AHB colony outgrows its nesting site, it will simply swarm and find
a new one.
3. Highly Defensive Behavior: AHBs can become highly defensive in order to protect
their hive. Defensive behavior can vary from mild to severe. The defensive response
time is much quicker than in EHBs and it takes far less stimulus (auditory, olfactory,
physical) to agitate an AHB colony than an EHB colony. A good safety precaution is to
maintain at least 100 feet, or the width of a four-lane highway, from any AHB hive.
It is always advisable to exercise caution with respect to all bee activity, whether in
managed or feral hives.