Currently, in recent weeks, some areas in Arizona have had the very aggressive Africanized honeybee causing menacing issues with people being stung excessively. This species of honeybees is smaller in size than a European honeybees and they are known to sting individuals excessively. This particularly aggressive strain of honeybee is responsible for some people getting stung so many times that they have been hospitalized. There was an 84-year-old Tucson-area man was stung more than 2,000 times in his backyard and there were also three dogs also killed.
An increase in calls to remove hives and swarms has been see by Beekeepers in the area. The blame is being pointed at the Africanized honeybee, also known as the killer bee. This is a cross-breed between the European honeybee and the African honeybee. The Africanized bee is the result of experiments in Brazil decades ago and the insects migrated to the United States. Southwestern states such as Arizona, New Mexico and Texas find the bees to be more prevalent in these warmer states. Most normal honeybees are especially docile but if this species is disrupted in the hive, they become especially aggressive.
Africanized bees choose hollow trees, walls, porches, sheds, attics, utility boxes, garbage containers and even abandoned vehicles, which shows this species are less
discriminating in their choice of nests than European bees. Although, we have seen some pretty odd spots they have also chosen utilizing a variety of natural and man-made objects. Africanized bees also tend to swarm more often than other honeybees.
States reporting Africanized honeybees are Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California. With the excessive swarming, causing the bee colonies to replicate. There are reports since the 1990’s of people being stung excessively and some were hospitalized and some fatalities.
Although the fatalities are alarming, Africanized bees probably present a greater danger in the United States (US) to American beekeeping and American agriculture than to humans. Africanized honeybees often enter European colonies to mingle and mate with them. Such mating results in more hybrid bees having African genes and tendencies dominating over European ones. An entire colony may suddenly take on aggressive and more likely to attack or confront humans or animals.
There was also a case in El Mirage, AZ, where an individual and four dogs were attacked (one died) by Africanized honeybees. The El Mirage Fire Department responded to this situation. There was a couch, which had been left outside and the bees made this their home, they became agitated as the owner tried to remove the couch. The individual was treated at the scene and not referred to the hospital.
More caution is needed when dealing with Africanized honeybees, unfortunately, when you come in contact with a hive in an unusual place, you do not know whether you are dealing with Africanized or European honeybees so do not panic. Slowly, with out fear, try to remove yourself from the scene so the bees do not release their chemical alarm pheromones. I cannot emphasize enough, “DO NOT SWAT AT BEES.” This is when they will attack. Remember, a few stings could benefit your health (bee venom has so many health benefits!) Most countries throughout the world use bee venom as medication and it can be very beneficial. So, although it might hurt a bit, it is not all bad!