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African Bees

History of Africanized Honey Bees

In 1956, researchers imported honey bees from Africa into Brazil in an  effort to improve beekeeping in the New World tropics. These African bees were  well suited to conditions in Brazil, and they began colonizing South America, hybridizing with European honey bees (hence the name "Africanized" honey bees)  and displacing the European bees. Compared to docile European bees, Africanized  honey bees are extremely defensive. Large numbers of them may sting people and  livestock with little provocation. They also "take over" European colonies by  entering them and killing the resident queen. Because of  these bees' noxious  behaviors, many beekeepers abandoned  beekeeping and the media widely publicized  these  so-called "killer bees." The bees spread northward at a rate of 186 to 310  miles per year, and today every country in South and Central America has  established populations of Africanized honey bees.

African Bee Map

Map shows where African Bees are as of 2011

African Bee Attack Experiences


Courtesy of BBC

Route Of African Bees

African honey bees reached the Brazilian wild in 1957 and then spread south and north until they officially reached the United States on October 19, 1990. They have since interbred with European honey bees, and because hybrid bees tend to exhibit many African honey bee traits while still retaining some European honey bee genes, the hybrid bees are referred to as Africanized honey bees. Honey bees, whether they are European, African, or Africanized, only sting defensively. However, Africanized honey bees are a concern to farmers and beekeepers because they are extremely protective of their hive and tend to be much more aggressive than European honey bees. This map layer (to your left) was compiled by the National Atlas of the United States® from information provided by the Agricultural Research Service.

Courtesy Of National Geographic.

Parts of this page were extracted from a compilation by Keith S. Delaplane,

An Extension Entomologist-© The Monitor, McAllen, Texas


Updated January 1, 2017

© 2010-2017 Albert W. Needham