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An image of a single Africanized Honey Bee on a plant leaf

Bees Part II: The Africanized Honey Bee (aka, “Killer Bee”)

Earlier this week we covered the Western Honey Bee, a common bee found around Phoenix and around the world in general. As you might recall, they are relatively harmless if left alone. Now we’ll shift our focus to the Africanized Honey Bee (a.k.a. “Killer Bee”). This type of bee is a much more aggressive and dangerous type. We’ll give you the basic information you need to recognize and protect yourself against them before they become a danger to you and your family.

Africanized Honey Bees have become very dominant in Arizona, so your chances of coming across them are relatively high. EXTREME care should be taken if you think you have stumbled across them. Failure to do so could result in unnecessary injury or, in rare cases, even death.

An image of two Africanized Honey Bees tending a honeycomb

Africanized Honey Bees tending a honeycomb

Why are Africanized Honey Bees so dangerous?

Individual bees of an Africanized Honey Bee colony are not actually any more dangerous than their less aggressive cousins. Being slightly smaller than the Western Honey Bee, they actually carry slightly less venom. Their venom is also of about the same toxicity as less aggressive kinds of bees. The problem lies in their behavior as a colony. They are much easier to provoke and, when provoked, are much more intense in their attack. For example, more bees join in the attack, so the victims receive more stings and more venom than they would from another species. As a result, it is possible for them to deliver enough venom as a swarm to be dangerous, even lethal. (Check out this local news article about an 11-year-old Safford boy who was stung hundreds of times!)

Also, these bees will chase a victim for longer distances than other bee species – up to and beyond several blocks! They have also been observed “waiting a victim out” if they try to escape under water. They just hover over the water until the victim resurfaces.

How can I tell if I’m dealing with an Africanized Honey Bee or “Killer Bee”?

It’s virtually impossible to tell by looking at them, because they are only slightly smaller than other honey bees. The size difference is not noticeable to the untrained, naked human eye. The main difference is the intensity of their defensive behavior when protecting their hive. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to get to that point just to identify the type of bee. In general, if you see a bee of any kind foraging for pollen, you have no reason to worry if you leave it alone. If you realize you’re near a beehive of any kind, move away quickly and call a professional.

Final Words: In defense of honey bees of all kinds…

Like other species of honey bee, Africanized Honey Bees are a major pollinator of plants. Vegetation and our ecosystem would suffer greatly without them. However, if they setup shop too close to human dwellings, they can pose a significant danger. If you believe you have an Africanized Honey Bee colony near your home or business, give us a call! Our professional exterminators can help assess the problem and determine whether non-lethal removal or complete extermination is required.