African Honey Bee
The African honey bee (Apis mellifera scutellata) is a subspecies of the Western honey bee. It is native to central and southern Africa, though at the southern extreme it is replaced by the Cape honey bee, Apis mellifera capensis.
This subspecies has been determined to constitute one part of the ancestry of the Africanized bees (AKA "killer bees") spreading through the Americas.
The African bee is being threatened by the introduction of the Cape honey bee into northern South Africa. If a female worker from a Cape honey bee colony enters an African bee nest, they are not attacked, partly due to their resemblance to the African bee queen. Now independent from her own colony, she may begin laying eggs, and since A.m. capensis workers are capable of parthenogenetic reproduction, they will hatch as "clones" of herself, which will also lay eggs. As a result the parasitic A. m. capensis workers increase in number within a host colony. This leads to the death of the host colony on which they depend. An important factor causing the death of a colony seems to be the dwindling numbers of A. m. scutellata workers that perform foraging duties (A. m. capensis workers are greatly under-represented in the foraging force of an infected colony) owing to death of the queen, and, before queen death, competition for egg laying between A. m. capensis workers and the queen. When the colony dies, the capensis females will seek out a new host colony.
A single African bee sting is no more venomous than a single European bee sting, though African honeybees respond more quickly when disturbed than do EHBs. They send out three to four times as many workers in response to a threat. They will also pursue an intruder for a greater distance from the hive. Although people have died as a result of 100-300 stings, it has been estimated that the average lethal dose for an adult is 500-1,100 bee stings.
Africanized Honey Bee Facts
Africanized honey bees (AHB) – also called "killer bees" – became established in Texas in 1990 and are spreading to other southern states. AHB are expected to enter southern California by the mid 1990’s and eventually migrate throughout the state. Although its "killer" reputation has been greatly exaggerated the presence of AHB will increase the chances of people being stung.
Learning about the AHB and taking certain precautions can lower the risk of being injured by this new insect in our environment.
The Africanized honey bee is closely related to the European honey bee used in agriculture for crop pollination and honey production. The two types of bees look the same and their behavior is similar in many respects. Neither is likely to sting when gathering nectar and pollen from flowers but both will sting in defense if provoked.
A swarm of bees in flight or briefly at rest seldom bothers people; however all bees become defensive when they settle begin producing wax comb and when raising their young.
- Look the same
- Protect their nest and sting in defense
- Can sting only once
- Have the same venom
- Pollinate flowers
- Produce honey and wax
Africanized honey bees are less predictable and more defensive than European honey bees. They are more likely to defend a greater area around their nest. They respond faster and in greater numbers although each bee can sting only once.
Africanized Honey Bees...
- Respond quickly and sting in large numbers
- Can sense a threat from people or animals 50 feet or more from the nest
- Sense vibrations from power equipment 100 feet or more from nest
- Will pursue an enemy ¼ mile or more
- Swarm frequently to establish new nests
- Nest in small cavities and sheltered areas
AHB nest in many locations where people may encounter them. Nesting sites include: empty boxes cans buckets or other containers; old tires; infrequently used vehicles; lumber piles; holes and cavities in fences trees or the ground; sheds garages and other outbuildings and low decks or spaces under buildings. Remove potential nest sites around buildings. Be careful wherever bees are present.
- Listen for buzzing indicating a nest or swarm of bees
- Use care when entering sheds or outbuildings where bees may nest
- Examine work area before using lawn mowers weed cutters and other power equipment
- Examine areas before tying up or penning pets or livestock
- Be alert when participating in all outdoor sports and activities
- Don’t disturb a nest or swarm – contact a pest control company or an emergency response organization
- Teach children to be cautions and respectful of all bees
- Check with a doctor about bee sting kits and procedures if sensitive to bee stings
- Develop a safety plan for your home and yard
- Organize a meeting to inform neighbors about the AHB to help increase neighborhood safety
Bee-Proofing Your Home
- Remove possible nesting sites around home and yard
- Inspect outside walls and eaves of home and outbuildings
- Seal openings larger than 1/8" in walls around chimneys and plumbing
- Install fine screens (1/8" hardware cloth) over tops of rain spouts vents and openings in water meter/utility boxes
- From spring to fall check once or twice a week for bees entering or leaving the same area of your home or yard
As a general rule stay away from all honey bee swarms and colonies. If bees are encountered get away quickly. While running away try to protect face and eyes as much as possible. Take shelter in a car or building. Water or thick brush does not offer enough protection. Do not stand and swat at bees, rapid motions will cause them to sting.
What To Do If Stung
- Go quickly to a safe area
- Remove stinger as soon as possible
- Don’t squeeze stinger; pressure will release more venom
- Scrape stinger out with fingernail knife blade or credit card
- Wash sting area with soap and water like any other wound
- Apply ice pack for a few minutes to relieve pain and swelling
Seek medical attention if breathing is troubled if stung numerous times or if allergic to bee stings.