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Africanized bee

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Africanized bees are a subspecies of European honeybee descended from 26 queen bees accidentally released in 1957 in Southern Brazil by biologist Warwick E. Kerr, who had interbred European honeybees and bees from southern Africa. Kerr was attempting to breed a strain of bees that would be resistant to parasitic mites which have decimated honeybee populations in the Americas.

Africanized bees are characterized by their aggressive behavior in establishing new hives and in their vigorous defensive behavior, attacking perceived hunters, including people. Over the decades, hundreds of deaths in the Americas have been attributed to them, many resulting from multiple bee stings[?]. This aggressiveness has earned them the nickname "killer bees", the aptness of which is debated. European honeybees also kill people due to allergic reactions, and it is difficult to estimate how many more people may have died than would have in the absence of Africanized bees.

As of 2002 they had spread from Brazil south to northern Argentina and north to South and Central America, México, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and southern California. They are spreading north at a rate of almost two kilometers (about one mile) a day.

Recent evidence suggests that Africanized honeybees are less able to survive a cold winter. As this subspecies of honeybee migrates further north, colonies are interbreeding with European honeybees to survive. This appears to be resulting in a dilution of the genetic contribution of the African stock and a gradual reduction of the aggressive behaviors.

The popular term 'Africanized bee' has only limited scientific meaning today because there is no generally accepted fraction of genetic contribution used to establish a cut-off.


How to Avoid Killer Bees

Beware of Head-butting Bees

Killer bee hives usually have a small number of sentry bees patrolling the perimeter of the hive's territory. In some if not most cases, these sentry bees will initially head-butt[?] (not sting) any animal that enters the hive's territory. If the animal continues closer to the hive, stinging will ensue.

If bees start head-butting you, use this behavior as a warning to retrace your steps. Choosing any other path could lead you deeper into the hive's territory.

Wear Light Colors

Like most bees, killer bees are attracted to dark colors. Knowing this, beekeepers alway wear white (or light colored) protective suits when working with bees.

When traveling through areas with bees, wear light colors to avoid attracting bees.


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