Are All Wild Honey Bees Africanized? Here’s The Complicated Truth and How We Can Still Save Them.

You’ve heard the term “killer bees” and harrowing stories of thousands of bees attacking people. While some of these stories are true, most of the time they are extremely exaggerated. But what are these “killer bees” exactly? Africanized honey bees are a specific race of honey bee. This means they’re the same bees that make delicious honey and help pollinate crops. So what’s the difference? Well, the short and less complicated answer is, they’re different. 

What Are Africanized Honeybees?

Africanized honey bees came to be in 1956 when scientists in Brazil imported African Bees in the hopes to create a subspecies. This mixture of African Bees and European Bees was supposed to make more honey and be better suited against pests and disease. While experimenting with these two species, a few hives ended up escaping and began breeding freely with other European honey bees. This created the subspecies you see today known as “killer bees” (scientific name: Apis Mellifera Scutellata).

How Can You Tell Them Apart?

It’s pretty impossible to tell an Africanized Honeybee apart from a European honey bee. They both look visibly similar. Some will say that Africanized honey bees are smaller, however, the difference is so little you won’t notice just by looking at a beehive. The main differences between Africanized and European honey bees lay within their personality. Africanized honey bees are much more aggressive than their European cousins. They have been known to chase people who get very close to their hive. Another difference is when the hive is disturbed in any way, 3 to 4 times more bees will come after a person. This is not common for European bees. However, only a genetic test will determine if a bee is Africanized.

Are All Wild Bees Africanized?

The short answer is yes. Any hive that is in an area where Africanized bees have entered most probably has some amount of the gene. The only way to know for sure that a bee has Africanized genes is through genetic testing. However, just because a bee has some Africanized gene does not mean it is a threat to humans! Many established pest control companies will state that every single wild beehive they encounter is Africanized, dangerous, and must be exterminated. As a beekeeper myself, I have only encountered two aggressive beehives in the two and a half years that I have been beekeeping. I have successfully saved countless hives through live bee removal and currently have 20 hives. For someone who works with bees on a daily basis, this number is low!

What Should I do If I Have a Wild Beehive?

First, you should contact a local beekeeper who does live bee removals. They will be able to determine if a hive is dangerous or not. If you do indeed have an Africanized beehive, it is up to you to have them relocated or exterminated. One thing to note, even if a beehive is Africanized, a beekeeper can still save the hive and requeen with a bought queen. Beekeepers in Florida are required by law to requeen any wild hive they obtain since we have Africanized bees in the state. However, sometimes it is not always an option to save a beehive and we understand if a person decides to exterminate. 

Let’s Give Wild Bees A Chance.

Not all wild bees are a threat to people. If we contact the right people and think about our options, we can save more bees than ever before. Have you ever had a beehive removed from your property? Did it show any signs of aggression?

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