Honey Bee Aren’t From Around Here.

Most of the bees people encounter are European honeybees, Apis mellifera. They were introduced in the New World to make honey. Apis is an old world genus of bees consisting of 8 species. They compete with native bees for pollen and nectar. A subspecies, A. mellifera scutella, was imported from East Africa to Brazil in the hopes of improving honey production. It was crossbred with other European honey bee subspecies. It escaped. Unfortunately, A. mellifera scutella is much more aggressive than its northern cousin. It also freely mates with European honey bees that bee keepers have up here. The aggressiveness is a dominant trait, so the hybrids are what is often referred to as Africanized or killer bees. When a domesticated bee hive becomes Africanized, bee keepers can address the problem by replacing the hybrid queen with a European one, “re-queening.”

Africanized honey bees started out in Brazil in 1956. After escaping, they started spreading across South America and up into North America. They reached Southern Arizona in the 1990s. They seem to do better in the wilds around Tucson than their milder brethren. They evolved to more vigorously defend their hives. When they feel threatened, they will swarm the presumed threat, potentially delivering hundreds of stings. They have killed many humans and other animals, some around here. Exercise caution if they seem to have a hive nearby.

Here’s UA Agricultural Extension’s advice on dealing with Africanized honey bees

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