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Africanized Honeybee

Since honey had gained popularity in South America, the Brazilian government in 1956 sent Warwick Kerr who was a geneticist to Africa to collect the African honeybee queens. Kerr was unusually determined to bring back 63 queens from Africa with him. However, only 48 of the 63 queens survived. With the remaining queens, Kerr undertook breeding experiments and through artificial insemination, bred the queens with European honeybees drones. In this experiment, 29 Africanized honeybees were born (Kerr, 1967). A queen excluder was used to separate the queens from the outer environment and thus allowed only the worker bees to roam outside to collect nectar that facilitated making of honey. In 1957, however, a local beekeeper removed the queen excluder making 26 Africanized honeybees queen escape. As a result of this escape, they rapidly began to reproduce. This escape did not give Warwick Kerr any worry as he believed that the queens would breed with the European honey bees and eventually lose their viciousness. Kerr was, however; disappointed later when cases of livestock being attacked by bees began to spread.


The Africanized honeybee Apis Mellifera Scutellata is a hybrid offspring that resulted from the successful crossing of the domestic honeybee Apis mellifera, that of the European descent and the aggressive African honeybee Apis mellifera scutellata (Hayden, 2011).


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It is known to have originated from both southern and central Africa. It hybridized in South America for the first time after it was introduced there in 1957 by Warwick Kerr (Hall et al., 2010). It then migrated towards the north and was spotted in southern Texas around the 1990s (Hall et al., 2010). The Africanized honeybee is at times regarded as an insect that is larger than life, particularly by the city of Hidlago citizens. This is due to the fact that they constructed a statue of steel and fiber glass. They then mounted it on a cart for publicity purposes.

Geographical Spread and Distribution

The Africanized honeybee geographically spread to Texas from Brazil as early as 1990. It thus had spread widely, and by 2002, it reached as far as northern Argentina, Trinidad, Central America, Arizona, Texas, Mexico, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and southern California. This rapid spread, however, took a slower rate when the bees reached eastern Texas, probably due to the fact that there is a large population of beehives around that area. Around the month of June 2005, the Africanized honeybees were discovered in Arkansas as they had already penetrated through Texas border (Caron, 2001). The commissioner of the Department of Forestry and Agriculture, Bob Odom stated on September, 2007 that the Africanized honeybees had established themselves in the area of New Orleans. Sate officials reported in 2012 that the Africanized honeybees colony had established itself in East Tennessee, Monroe County.

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Reasons Why it has Become Established

The establishment of the Africanized honeybee can be both self as well as human-assisted migration. The human-assisted migration is experienced, for instance, when Warwick Kerr takes Africanized honeybees from Africa to Brazil (Kaplan, 2004). The Africanized honeybee has widely spread principally due to its ability to be comfortably adaptable to new environments fast. It is primarily an active species and known to pass through any set up barrier to limit their spread. They can adapt well to minor alteration of the global warming hence the reason for their establishment.


It can basically thrive well in extreme conditions of rainforests and deserts. Originally, the native habitat of the Africanized honeybees is Africa particularly the eastern and southern part. The strain thus was able to spread throughout South and Central America and eventually into the U.S (Sanford and Hall, 2005). Generally, Apis mellifera scutellata is less selective when it comes to the preference of its habitat. It can be found in rotted logs, tree hollows as well as man-made features such as rock piles and wood. One should understand that Africanized honeybees are habituated to a dry and wet season, which is rarely experienced in the temperate regions which have cold and hot seasons.

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Appearances/ Biological Features

The largely known Africanized honeybee Apis mellifera scutellata generally has the appearance of the volatile European honeybee. A distinction between the two honeybees is very minute and can only be observed by the help of a microscope in order to notice the fact that the Africanized honeybee is slightly smaller. A close observation of the Africanized honeybees would make individuals observe that they are healthy, with their length measuring up to ¾ of an inch with fuzz covering their bodies. Though they lack distinct black striped color as the hornets and wasps, they basically have brownish color that is striped with black. The middle part of the body, thorax has four wings attached to it with six legs attached around the bottom part of the thorax. Their thorax is smaller compared to the abdomen which ends in the stinger. The thorax and the abdomen are both larger than the head which has a pair of compound eyes which enable them to fly at night since the can see ultraviolet rays.


The main diet of the Africanized honeybee is pollen and nectar from flowers. The main purpose of nectar is for the provision of sugar while pollen provides protein. The nectar also assists the bees in the production of honey which in turn becomes part of their diet. Africanized honeybees are hardy and can carry on even in meager food supplies. The larvae stage of the workerbees is fed on several foods such as pollen, nectar, honey and the royal jelly for a period of 6 days, which is a secretion produced by young workers. The drones, on the other hand, are fed on the royal jelly for a period of 8 days while the queens never feed on anything else apart from the royal jelly until they are grown fully.

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Morphology and Genetics

The wings of the Africanized honeybee are somewhat shorter. This observation, however, is only analyzed by use of a microscope. The shortcoming associated with this observation is that there exist other subspecies, which have shorter wings. One such subspecies with similar morphology is the Egyptian bee which is also found around the south eastern part of the U.S.

The presence of such difficulties is probably the main reason why testing techniques have shifted to DNA analysis. This is only possible if one in a laboratory that is sophisticated (Sanford and Hall, 2005). The cytochrome b gene of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is able to differentiate Apis mellifera scutellata from other Apis mellifera lineages. The mtDNA, however, only enables one to detectcolonies with Africanized queen but not in instances where a European queen has apparently mated Africanized drones.

Life Cycle

The Africanized honey bees undergo through a complete metamorphosis comprised of four stages of egg larvae, pupa, and adult. The queen uses the wax cells to lay their eggs. The bees take different number of days to mature into different categories. The queen, for instance, takes a total of 16 days, the worker bees take 21days to mature while the drones take a total of 24 days to reach adulthood.

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Fertilized eggs are produced once the queen mates with male drones. These fertilized eggs can either become worker bees or queens. In order to obtain queens, the mature worker bees feed the larvae with the royal jelly throughout until they become adults. Incase the queen produce unfertilized eggs, these eggs mature to become reproductive male drones.

A single queen is capable of laying a total of up to 1500 eggs each single day. The queens have the ability to store sperms internally and fertilize the eggs for the rest of their lifespan after mating with multiple drones.


Most of the major characteristics of the Africanized honeybee is their great defensiveness in their already established hives. Any perceived threat is relentlessly attacked in large numbers and in addition, chase these threats for long distances. This hyper defensive behavior is the main reason as to why they are called ‘’killer bees’’ as they have been accredited to cause the several bee deaths reported in America (Kaplan, 2004). Although the venom produced by Africanized honeybee is less potent than the European honeybee, they cause many deaths due to the fact that they attack in large numbers (Markel, 2004).

Benefits of Africanized Honeybee

The most common product that comes from the Africanized honeybee is the honey. The medical benefit created by this honey is wide. It is applied on bruises and cuts and used to cure common ailments. Some antiseptics, antioxidants and head-to-toe remedies also come from the honey made by these bees (Sanford and Hall, 2005). Despite fighting infections, honey is also used on scars to assist in tissue healing.

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In terms of agriculture, bees contribute a lot during pollination. According to a research carried out by Cornell University, the value of honeybee pollination to U. S. agriculture is more than $14 billion annually. Most of the vegetables like carrots, beans, tomatoes and onions depend upon honeybees for pollination. One-sixth of the world’s flowering plant species need bees for pollination. Also in another level there are some livestock that depend on forage plants pollinated by bees, for instance, clover.


Africanized honeybees are more aggressive and dangerous because unlike other bees they attack intruders in greater numbers, such that they were given a fearsome reputation as ‘killer bees’. Its colony may include soldier bees that react quicker and ready to attack any threat that perceives it. They chase intruders longer, as far as a quarter a mile than other honeybees. Scientists term this behavior as hyper-defensive behavior (Markle, 2004). Once stung by an Africanized honeybee, a victim may suffer 10 times as many stings as from a European honeybee attack.

An individual is advised to run whenever he/she provokes an attack and try to run in a straight line while protecting your head by covering it with a jacket or a shirt. Hide in a car or house but do not jump into the water because they will wait for you to surface. Also, one is advised not to flair the arms when attacked since they will only attack worse.

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Environmental Impact

Most of the local and economical plants and crops such as watermelon, mango, coconut, avocado and squash partly depend upon cross pollination done by the honeybees for existence. Plant communities over the years evolve to a degree that most of the plant species are entirely dependent on insect pollination. Evidently a plant is so highly dependent on its specialist pollinators for fertilization and set seed.

Some of the agricultural plants consumed by humans are pollinated by Africanized honeybees. It would be difficult for us to feed on a variety of vegetables and fruit if it were not for them (Hayden, 2011). Human is not the only one affected an entomologist at the North Carolina State, John T. Ambrose, estimates that 15 to 20 percent of black bear’s diet comes from honeybees, bee pollinated fruit, nuts and berries.


Implementation of any control levels of Africanized honeybee largely depends on the conditions of the environment. In temperate regions, they would not successfully establish a domain and hence a Minimal Priority control level should be implemented. In any case, honeybee monitoring programs are important for flowering plant productivity, and relative ecological health.

Also, educating the public and beekeepers on method of avoiding direct contact with the Africanized honeybees would help in dealing with any issues that pose a threat to them.

What to Do If Attacked by Africanized Honeybees

Most important thing to note is the triggers that provoke an attack by Africanized honeybees such as disturbing the hive or loud noise, since this will trigger a sense of threat from the bees. If attacked, one is advised to run as fast as possible and assist only the disabled or children if necessary. Pulling your jacket or shirt over your head while running will protect your face since bees tend to target the sensitive parts of your head. Carbon Dioxide expelled from either your mouth or nose attracts the bees so most likely they will tend to attack those parts.

Too much movement attracts bees, therefore, flailing your arms or swatting at them only worsens the situation. Most likely one might end up crushing them in the process and attract other bees by the smell emitted from the dead bee. Africanized honeybees are reputable for their aggressive nature. One is advised not to stop running when attacked until they find a secure place to hide (Markle, 2004). Water source such as a river is not convenient for hiding since the bees will wait for one to surface then attack. If some find themselves in a trapped situation, they should look for a piece of clothing to cover themselves from getting attacked by the bees.

How Africanized Honeybees Differ from European Honeybees

Africanized honeybees differ in various ways from the European honeybees both physically and behaviorally. Africanized honeybees are smaller in size when compared to the European honeybees. As much as they are smaller in size, Africanized honeybees cannot survive in temperate areas for long contrary to the larger European honeybees. They are known to attack more aggressively in a larger number and cover longer miles when pursuing any threat even if unprovoked. European honeybees attack when provoked only and cover just a few yards when pursuing the threat. Their less aggressive nature makes the European honeybees produce honey in larger quantity than Africanized honeybees.

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Effects of Africanized Honeybee on South and Central America

Africanized honeybees had spread rapidly in South and Central America when they migrated in the U.S. through Mexico. The population of their colony increased over the years quickly which consequently led to the production of honey, beekeeping practices and crop that might depend on pollination.

Incase of an invasion from the ever increasing Africanized honeybees in South and North America, several measures for control and suppression have been taken in identification of undesirable behavior. Beekeepers will tend to either rear Africanized honeybees just as a hobby or suppress reproduction of the queen.

How the Arrival of Africanized Honeybees Affect the U.S Beekeeping Industries

Various studies carried out by examiners to clarify whether Africanized honeybee has a high impact on the beekeeping industries provide results that indicate Apis mellifera scutellata to have a great, significant outcome on the reduced production of honey and displacing most European honeybees over the years. Therefore, their arrival in the U.S raises both financial and environmental concerns from the beekeepers and the general public (Hayden, 2011). On another hand, they create an opportunity to study ways in which an infestation of the Africanized honeybee could be avoided or controlled.

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Humanitarian Movements

Human lives are more important in every aspect than the flora and fauna, though their survival would be limited without the presence of the two. Although honeybees are essential in their lives in diverse ways, the average civilian believes that they pose a threat to human lives in that their venomous sting can kill, and an invasion might be inevitable due to their increased population over the years. Understandably their knowledge and understanding about the insect might be diminutive, but individuals are advised to get over this notion and have a more clear and positive image about the Africanized honeybee.

Summary, Analysis & Conclusion

The Africanized honeybee is responsible for colonizing a great part of America in not more than 50 years and in the process replacing the European bees. These factors make the Africanized honeybee the best for the examination of the conditions associated with invasion success. The ability of the Africanized honeybee to replace the European honeybee is based on several factors. Such factors include the fact that there are mechanisms that facilitate the preservation of the African genome and that the availability of a possible range for the impact of the African bees in the United States.

The Africanized honeybee thus is the dominant type of honeybees that has a great ability to replace the others and cover a wide range of an environment. Many cultural changes that occur make the major implication of the biological revolution of the Africanized honeybee to be lost. Many individuals more often than not only get to hear about the defensiveness and aggressiveness of the Africanized honeybee and thus the nickname, killer bees.

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It is thus justified to conclude that the Africanized honeybee has brought many changes to the lives of many. It brought significant change to the Brazilian farmers when it was introduced by increasing the honey production. It also assisted in crop production through pollination. Though the honeybee has caused the deaths of several individuals from its stings, it has brought many positive results that outweigh the disadvantages.



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