Vincent Lazaneo, University of California Cooperative Extension Urban Horticulture and Pest Management Advisor, San Diego County
Africanized honey bees (AHB) -- also called "killer bees" -- became established in Texas in 1990 and are spreading to other southern states. AHB entered southern California in 1994 and are now established throughout southern California and in the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. Although its "killer" reputation has been greatly exagerated, the presence of AHB will increase the chances of people being stung. Learning about AHB and taking certain precautions can lower the risk of being injured by this new insect in out 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 and begin producing wax comb and raising young.
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 in greater numbers, although each bee can sting only once.
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 may be found.
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.
Hives of European honey bees (EHB) managed by beekeepers play an important part in our lives. These bees are necessary for the pollination of many crops. One-third of our diet relies on honey bee pollination.
Efforts taken to control Africanized honey bees (AHB) must assure the continued maintenance of beekeepers' hives. If EHB were eliminated in an area, the wild Africanized honey bees would quickly fill the gap. People can coexist with AHB by learning about the bee and its habits, supporting beekeeping efforts and taking a few precautions.
Honey bees are not the only stinging insects people may encounter. People are often stung by other bees and wasps that look and behave differently from honey bees.
If attacked by bees, leave the area quickly and find shelter in a building or car!
*actual size approximation is available on printed pamphlet
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pr-08/02-SB/VFG ISBN 978-1-60107-246-7
This material is based upon work supported by the Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under special project number 93-EXNP-1-5191.This publication has been anonymously peer reviewed for technical accuracy by University of California scientists and other qualified professionals. This review process was managed by the ANR Associate Editor for Natural Resources.
Publication #: ANR-8068
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