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Africanized Honey Bees. Do we need to be concerned!. Unknown artist’s Scary vision of AfHB. Dewey M. Caron. Origin. Out of East Africa. Swarming into wild in Brazil. Native (Masai) harvest of rustic colony In tree – nightime w/ smoke & fire. Beekeeper contemplating AHB swarm capture.

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Africanized honey bees

Africanized Honey Bees

Do we need to be concerned!

Unknown artist’s

Scary vision of AfHB

Dewey M. Caron


Out of East Africa

Swarming into wild in Brazil

Native (Masai) harvest of rustic colony

In tree – nightime w/ smoke & fire

Beekeeper contemplating AHB swarm capture

Changing American Beekeepers

& Beekeeping

Beekeeper inspection of AHB colony in Panama

Note: using jumbo smoker

Africanized bee spread in americas following introduction into brazil 1957
Africanized bee spread in Americasfollowing introduction into Brazil (1957)

Isolated introductions X by truck/rail/beekeeper - eliminated

X Maine blueberry pollination

sampling shows increase of AHB





X 2005

Numerous importations

into Eastern ports - eliminated







2005 Fl considered colonized

Pacific coast

of Peru/Ecuador

due to beekeeper

colony movement

Why is africanized bee ahb sometimes called killer bee
Why is Africanized Bee (AHB) sometimes called “killer bee”?

“Killer” Bee is a media (TIME) term –

Bee is highly defensive and stinging incidents

Increase when it colonizes an area

(newspaper account AZ & southern CA stinging increase)

Animal stinging “accidents” often preceed those with humans

see compilation of media stories

What is an africanized bee ahb
What is an Africanized Bee (AHB)? bee”?

A Honey Bee Population

w/ slight biological changes


AHB prefer smaller nest cavities

& build exposed nests more often

Than temperate (European) bees

Workers ‘running’ off comb

AHB differences from EHB – swarm a lot, are frequently defensive,

run on combs, rear workers in 19 days, queens in 15 ½ days, are

slightly smaller bodied, early risers and not great dancers, - slight

variations in biology familiar in European (temperate) bees (EHB).

The africanized bee is a pollinator
The Africanized bee is a Pollinator bee”?


Melon pollination in

Costa Rica

But it is a more difficult bee to manage

in planned pollination due to higher

swarming /absconding/defensiveness

The ahb is a better honey producer in tropical climates compared to ehb
The AHB is a better honey producer in tropical climates (compared to EHB)

Tropical Honey Production

Higher elevation (less tropical)

conditions in Bolivia

But honey is a valuable medicine in 3 rd world rather than food
BUT Honey is a valuable medicine (compared to EHB)in 3rd world rather than food

Honey for sale

In a Guatamalan


Note: you buy bottle

or piece of comb

In wax paper

The ahb is not a hybrid
The AHB is NOT a hybrid! (compared to EHB)

It is essentially pure African but not easy to ID in early stages of colonization

Shown is Tom Rinderer, USDA making morphometric measures of wings –

mt DNA is a more reliable (but costly) method to determine AHB or EHB

Tropical vs temperate honey bees
Tropical vs Temperate honey bees (compared to EHB)

Temperate EHB in tropics

● store more honey for winter

● nest in well-insulated cavities

● rear lg worker populations

● only 1-3 swarms/year

●rarely abandon nest

Selection factor – winter -- so raise more workers

and store more honey to survive, swarming/

abandoning the nest less

Tropical vs temperate honey bees1
Tropical vs Temperate honey bees (compared to EHB)

TropicalAHB in tropics

● smaller nests

● collect more pollen – less honey

● higher reproduction (swarming)

● abandon nests more

● more defensive

Selective factor – predation

-- so more quickly raise

brood and reproduce. Defend

more rapidly but also abandon

nest to reestablish elsewhere

Challenges w ahb it can be unpredictable
Challenges w/ AHB (compared to EHB)It can be unpredictable!

It can sting a lot –

humans & animals have died

Exploding from colony as it is opened

Challenges w ahb need new locations
Challenges w/ AHB (compared to EHB)Need new locations

Need to plan for defensiveness

Must now isolate or conceal colonies w/ vegetative corral

and move them away from people & animals

Challenges w ahb need to modify management
Challenges w/ AHB (compared to EHB)Need to modify management

They raise lots

of brood – store

less honey

They run off combs

when inspected

+ Keeping them home – must control

swarming & absconding

The major challenge raising manageable stock
The major challenge (compared to EHB)Raising manageable stock

Queen finding &

rearing is very

difficult with AHB

Where AHB colonize:

Not possible

to keep AHB &

EHB in same


(EHB not competitive)


Do we have a

better chance

of keeping gentle

European stock?

So where has it colonized in us
So where has it colonized in US? (compared to EHB)



Not here yet
Not here ....YET!!! (compared to EHB)

It is a tropical/sub-tropical bee, not a desirable bee for temperate conditions…

We do NOT know its eventual distribution within U.S.

What needs to be done
What needs to be done? (compared to EHB)

  • Inform beekeepers, 1st responders, public

  • Establish press relations (it will “hit” the press)

  • Survey for its presence

  • Revise bee laws

  • Requeen colony if


  • Keep on


    Beekeepers are part of “solution” – not part of “problem”

So in summary
So in summary.... (compared to EHB)

AHB Honey Bee population has changed

the face of American beekeeping

It is an excellent tropical semi tropical bee where there is no alternative
It is an excellent tropical/semi-tropical bee (compared to EHB)WHERE there is NO alternative!

Pre-AHB apiary

Where they have colonized they are superior competitors –

you can’t successfully keep European bees side-by-side

Good news in south american higher elevations ahb is more manageable
GOOD NEWS!! In South American higher elevations AHB is more manageable!


apiary at

8500 ft

They CAN adapt to severe winters...but do better in the south!

And they are now a ready resource for rural campesinos
AND they are now a ready manageable!resource for rural campesinos

A trapped

AHB swarm/


- can be


to a hive or



from wild

USDA photo

So will where will they be a factor in us beekeeping
So.... Will where will they be a factor in US Beekeeping??? manageable!

Primarily they are a



So the answer is
So the answer is.... manageable!