So I thought I would blog about the honeybee’s (Apis mellifera) in Tucson. Everyone here knows about the Africanized honeybees…or at least they think they do. Here, any honeybee you see in the wild (or just outdoors) will more likely be an Africanized honeybee. This is because 99% of the wild honeybees here are Africanized. The African or “killer” bees are a subspecies of the docile European honeybees. They are a hybrid between the European and Africanized species which were accidentally released. Even though these bees are hybrids, the offspring take on the aggressive behavior of Africanized bees. Here are a few pictures that G took of an Africanized honeybee she saved from a swimming pool (yes…she saved a bee. how great is that!)
The stings of both bees are the same, so how are Africanized bees different from European honeybees…here are a few ways:
1. Africanized bees are more likely to attack-they are easily agitated, even by certain sounds
2. They attack in larger numbers, which is what makes them lethal
3. They are not picky about where they live. They will make homes in the smallest cavities. This allows them to live in more populated places.
4. Defend their hive from farther away
5. Will pursue perceived threats for longer distances (can chase you for 1/4 mile or more)
6. Swarm more frequently. They abandon their hives and establish new ones
7. Are aggressive during swarming
We have to face it…these bees are here to stay, and once Africanized bees move into a place, they dominate. Here are a few tips to help protect yourself:
1. DO NOT smash or smack any of them. When you do this, their bodies release a pheromone (a chemical) that tells other’s you are a threat and marks you. The more bees that sting you or that you smash, the more of this chemical that gets on you and the more bees that will come out to sting you. This is how people are killed.
2. If attacked, do not jump into water. They will wait for you to come up for air (can wait for 15 minutes). Instead, run into the house, car, or under a blanket (some sort of covering)
3. Do not get close to the hive. You will know when you are getting close because the patrolling bees will head-butt you (more on this later)
4. If you find a hive near your property, call a professional exterminator to have it removed
I mentioned the word “head-butt” and most of you were probably raising your eyebrow. Here is the story on that. Honeybees do this behavior which we refer to as “head-butting” potential threats before an attack. They do this when you get too close to the hive. There are bees that stay near the hive and just patrol. When these bees see you (or something else) move close to the hive, they will fly into you and bump you with their head. This happened to me a week ago when I got too close to my neighbors hive. This is a way for the bees to tell you to get back, your too close to the hive, and if you keep going, they attack. It’s a warning. Knowing this behavior can save you. They will not sting when head-butting. They just fly into you. It may look as if these bees are blind and don’t see you, but they are warning you. If this happens just back away.