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African Honey Bees


Honey bees are among the most well-known and economically beneficial insects.  Honey bees produce honey, pollen and beeswax and pollinate many valuable crops.  In Georgia, a large segment of the beekeeping industry specializes in  mass-producing bees for sale to other beekeepers. Although many people make a  living from bees, most beekeepers are hobbyists with only a few hives. 

Honey bees are not native to the New World. Most New World honey bees are  descendants of bees brought to North and South America by European settlers  beginning in the 1600s. Bees from Europe flourished in North America, but they  were poorly suited to the tropics of South America. Most areas of the United  States today have high densities of both managed and "wild" European honey bee  colonies. In most of South America, however, European honey bees do not prosper  unless they are intensively managed by beekeepers. 


Map below shows where African Bees are as of 2011

African Bee Map

Bee Button An African Bee Attack Experience

History of Africanized Honey Bees

In 1956, researchers imported honey bees from Africa into Brazil in an  effort to improve beekeeping in the New World tropics. These African bees were  well suited to conditions in Brazil, and they began colonizing South America, hybridizing with European honey bees (hence the name "Africanized" honey bees)  and displacing the European bees. Compared to docile European bees, Africanized  honey bees are extremely defensive. Large numbers of them may sting people and  livestock with little provocation. They also "take over" European colonies by  entering them and killing the resident queen. Because of  these bees' noxious  behaviors, many beekeepers abandoned  beekeeping and the media widely publicized  these  so-called "killer bees." The bees spread northward at a rate of 186 to 310  miles per year, and today every country in South and Central America has  established populations of Africanized honey bees.

Courtesy of BBC

Route Of African Bees

African honey bees reached the Brazilian wild in 1957 and then spread south and north until they officially reached the United States on October 19, 1990. They have since interbred with European honey bees, and because hybrid bees tend to exhibit many African honey bee traits while still retaining some European honey bee genes, the hybrid bees are referred to as Africanized honey bees. Honey bees, whether they are European, African, or Africanized, only sting defensively. However, Africanized honey bees are a concern to farmers and beekeepers because they are extremely protective of their hive and tend to be much more aggressive than European honey bees. This map layer (to your left) was compiled by the National Atlas of the United States® from information provided by the Agricultural Research Service.

National Geographic Video About The African Bees



African Bees

These are African Bees. This Photo was taken in South Africa and is courtesy of Zach's Bee Photos.

You can't tell these Bees from other bees by just looking at them


National Geographic Video About The African Bees


What do I do if attacked by African Bees ?
  • Do run. Run away as fast as possible. Get into a building or vehicle if you can.
  • Do try to cover your face and head as you run.
  • Do call 911.
  • Do start removing stingers from your skin once you are away from the bees. You can remove them by scraping, pulling, or using sticky tape. Do not leave the stingers in any longer than necessary, as they will continue to pump venom.
  • Don’t stop to remove stingers until you are safely away from the attacking bees.
  • Don’t jump into water. This only works in cartoons. The bees will see you and wait for you to come up for air.
  • Don’t panic !


- Parts of this page were extracted from a compilation by Keith S. Delaplane, An Extension Entomologist -

© The Monitor, McAllen, Texas

© 1995-2014 Albert W. Needham