Africanized Honey Bee: Apis Mellifera Scutellata

Picture of Africanized bee hive

Description Of Africanized Honey Bee

Although “Killer Bees” (Africanized Bees) have a similar appearance to common Honey Bees, there are some physical differences between the two. A laboratory must measure and compare 20 different structures to determine the differences. Analyzing the DNA and enzymes of the specimen is another way to check.

In 1956, some African Honey Bee colonies were imported into Brazil to cross-breed them with local Honey Bee populations to boost honey production. Twenty-six African queen bees and swarms of European worker bees escaped from an experimental apiary near Sao Paulo in 1957. Since hybridized with European Honey Bees, these African bees have since feral and from commercial hives to form hybrid populations. They’ve slowly made their way north through South America, Central America, and eastern Mexico, covering 100 to 200 miles per year.

Killer Bees first appeared in southern Texas in 1990, then in Arizona in 1993, and finally in California in 1995. They are expected to establish colonies in parts of the United States’ south. 1 Go To Source si.edu -“Africanized Honey Bee”

Africanized Honey Bee Behavior

Image of Africanized honey bee extracting nectar When it comes to foraging behavior, Africanized honey bees have a distinct set of characteristics. Compared to their European counterparts, Africanized honey bees begin foraging at a younger age and harvest a greater quantity of pollen. This could be due to the Africanized honey bee’s high reproductive rate, which necessitates more pollen to feed the more significant number of larvae.

At lower concentrations, Africanized honey bees are also susceptible to sucrose. Foragers with this adaptation harvest resources with low sucrose concentrations, such as water, pollen, and unconcentrated nectar.

Life Cycle Of Africanized Honey Bees

The mating and developmental biology of African and European bees are similar for the most part, but critical differences confer adaptive benefits to the former. All western honey bee virgin queens emerge from peanut hull-shaped waxen cells. A virgin queen will leave the colony after a short period of maturation to mate with drones. All mating takes place in the air, with the most successful suitors being the fastest drones.

Queens will mate multiple times over seven to ten days, with an average of ten to twenty drones each time. A spermatheca is an organ that queen bees use to Drone populations in an area that favors African bees because African colonies produce more drones per colony. As a result, African drones are more likely than European drones to mate with virgin European queens. Furthermore, due to differences in flight time and distance from the colony, European queens encounter African drones more frequently than European drones, allowing hybridization.

Honey bees go through a complete metamorphosis, but the time it takes from egg to adult varies depending on the subspecies. The newly mated queen bee lays her eggs in wax cells made by worker bees. Female offspring, either workers or queens, are produced from fertilized eggs. The female larva develops into a queen if fed a diet rich in royal jelly, and the reverse is true for the development of workers. Drones are born from unfertilized eggs and inherit only their mother’s genetic material (they have no father). 2 Go To Source entnemdept.ufl.edu -“African honey bee”

Habitat Of Africanized Honey Bee

Photo of Africanized honey bee Africanized honey bees are void nesters, which means they will build their nests in hollow tree holes and stumps, building eaves, and other cavities. They’ve been known to build nests in abandoned BBQ pits, trash cans, and other outdoor items. Africanized honey bees will occasionally build nests outside of voids with an exposed comb, but these rarely survive the winter.

Hives, also known as nests, are made of wax produced by worker bee glands and molded into vertically hanging combs. Depending on the colony’s strength and size, a nest may have several to many vertically hanging combs. Eggs, larvae, pupae, honey, and pollen are all contained in hexagonal cells in the comb. 3 Go To Source extensionentomology.tamu.edu -“Africanized Honey Bees”

Africanized Honey Bee Diet

All honeybees, including Africanized honeybees, feed on nectar and pollen. Honey is made up of partially digested nectar and is used as a carbohydrate source that can be stored. Honeybees produce honey, which is used to feed bee larvae. Honey is also used as a food source for the hive during the winter when it’s too cold for the bees to forage and flowers aren’t in bloom.

Predators Of The Africanized Honey Bee

Africanized Honey Bees are preyed upon by the same predators as bee species fear. Predators include:

  • Honey Badgers
  • Safari Ants
  • Anteaters
  • Armadillos
  • Bee wolves
  • Bears

Predation also causes disturbances, which may affect swarming and absconding. If predation disrupts a recently settled colony, the colony may be forced to relocate immediately, affecting colony size and growth rates. Bees use biting and stinging to defend their nests from predators. Africanized bees fly much farther than European honeybees to evade their predatory intruders.

Damage Caused By Africanized Honey Bees

Photograph of beekeeper removing Africanized bee hive A higher density of highly defensive bee colonies results from the immigration of Africanized honey bees. Africanized honey bees produce increased numbers of stinging bees over much greater distances in response to activity near their colonies. This can be fatal, especially to people who are allergic to bee stings or have limited ability to flee (the young, old, and handicapped), as well as confined livestock or pets. They have killed humans and animals in every country to which they have migrated.

Africanized honey bees are difficult to transport and manage, also wreak havoc on beekeeping. The best defense is to keep European bee colonies away from areas where Africanized honey bees are present, but beekeepers face higher costs, more difficulty finding bee sites due to public fear, and increased liability concerns. 4 Go To Source cisr.ucr.edu-“Africanized Honey Bees”

Africanized Honey Bee Removal & Relocation

Africanized honey bees are far more aggressive when compared to European honey bees, and if not dealt with properly, they can become very dangerous. Regardless of how aggressive they are toward intruders, Africanized honey bees are still beneficial to the environment. The bees can be captured, relocated, and re-queened in some cases, resulting in a much less aggressive honey bee. It’s difficult to tell whether feral bee swarms will be aggressive or not, which is a problem for non-beekeepers.

Bees treated improperly with products purchased at a local hardware store or a DIY pest control store cause dozens of injuries and, in some cases, death. Never use over-the-counter products to treat an active hive, and never use foam to seal the bees in. Both of these will result in a lot of money being wasted and a huge mess. Bees residing inside a wall void or attic space can become trapped inside the house with no way out. If you trap bees inside your home, thousands of bees could end up inside.

When dealing with feral honey bee swarms or established hives, please consult a professional. Attempting to treat bees or sealing them in with a can of foam is dangerous and can result in injuries and a worsening of the problem.

 

 

Sources:

  1. Department of Systematic Biology. “Africanized Bees.” Smithsonian Institution, www.si.edu/spotlight/buginfo/killbee. Accessed 19 Apr. 2021.
  2. Ellis, Jamie. “Africanized Honey Bee – Apis Mellifera Scutellata Lepeletier.” Featured Creatures, University of Florida, 1 Jan. 2008, entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/bees/ahb.htm.
  3. Visscher, Kirk. “Africanized Honey Bee.” Center for Invasive Species Research, University of California Riverside, cisr.ucr.edu/invasive-species/africanized-honey-bee. Accessed 19 Apr. 2021.
  4. Keck, Molly. “Africanized Honey Bees.” Extension Entomology, Texas A&M University, 3 Dec. 2020, extensionentomology.tamu.edu/insects/africanized-honey-bees.