Africanized Honeybees


Africanized honeybees were imported to Brazil in 1956 to enhance honey production in the tropics. Some of the bees escaped into the wild and have gradually moved towards North America. Africanized honeybees are the temperamental cousins of the more common European bee found in Arizona.

They often are called “killer bees,” but in reality their stings are less potent and painful than the common bee sting.

Contrary to portrayal in the movies, these bees do not swoop down en masse causing death and destruction. They do defend their nesting sites very aggressively, sometimes stinging their victims hundreds of times.

It is impossible for the average person to tell the difference between an Africanized honeybee and the common European honeybee. Only an expert with sophisticated lab equipment is able to distinguish between the two.

Those at highest risk are individuals who are allergic to bee stings and pets that are penned or tied up near honeybee hives.

If You Are Attacked

  • Run as quickly as you can away from the bees. Do not flail or swing your arms at them, as this may further annoy them.
  • Because bees target the head and eyes, cover your head as much as you can without slowing your escape.
  • Get to the shelter of the closest house or car as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t worry if a few bees become trapped in your home. If several bees follow you into your car, drive about a quarter of a mile and let the bees out of the car.

When to Call the Fire Department

  • Call the Fire Department only when emergency medical services are needed. If someone has been stung by many bees at once or has an allergic reaction to a bee sting, call 9-1-1.
  • Call the Fire Department if someone has become trapped in a building or car with lots of bees. Fire trucks are equipped with foam that can be sprayed on the bees to drown them.
  • Do not call the Fire Department to remove bee colonies or hives. If you want bees removed, look in the yellow pages under “bee removal” or “beekeepers."

Do's and Don'ts

  • Do check your property regularly for bee colonies. Honeybees nest in a wide variety of places, especially Africanized honeybees. Check animal burrows, water meter boxes, overturned flowerpots, trees, and shrubs.
  • Do keep pets and children indoors when using weed eaters, hedge clippers, tractor power motors, chainsaws, etc. Attacks frequently occur when a person is mowing the lawn or pruning shrubs and inadvertently strikes a bees nest.
  • Do avoid excessive motion when near a colony. Bees are much more likely to respond to an object in motion than a stationary one.
  • Don't pen, tie, or tether animals near beehives or nests.
  • Don't destroy bee colonies or hives, especially with pesticides. Honeybees are a vital link to U.S. agriculture. Each year, pollination by honeybees adds at least $10 billion to the value of more than 90% of crops. They also produce about $150 million worth of honey each year.
  • Don't remove bees yourself. If you want bees removed, look in the yellow pages under "bee removal" or "beekeepers."
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