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The "Doctor Strangelove" of the insect world, the "killer bee" is actually known as the "Africanized Honey Bee", or "Africanized Bee" - but most commonly as the KILLER BEES.

These bees are descendants of South African bees imported in 1956 by a Brazilian scientist, Warwick E. Kerr*, attempting to breed a honey bee better adapted to the South American tropics.

When some of these bees escaped quarantine in 1957, they began breeding with local Brazilian honey bees, quickly multiplying and extending their range throughout South and Central America - at a rate greater than 200 miles per year. In the last 10 years, the Africanized Honey Bee began invading North America.
* RT believes in giving credit, where credit is due.

Africanized bees acquired the name "killer bees" because they will viciously attack people and animals who unwittingly stray into "their" territory, often resulting is serious injury or death. It is not necessary to disturb the hive itself to initiate an attack by these bees. In fact, Africanized bees have been known to respond viciously to mundane occurrences, including noises or even vibrations from vehicles, equipment and pedestrians. They attack by the hundreds, if not thousands, in an angry swarm.

Their venom is no more potent than native honey bees. Their "killer" reputation comes from the number of attacking bees (and resultant stings), and their aggressive chasing of victims for long distances. Once disturbed, colonies may remain agitated for 24 hours, attacking people and animals within a range of over a quarter of a mile from the hive. Makes you want to meet these Brazilian scientists, doesn't it? Where's INS (Insect Naturalization Service) when you really need them?

African bees proliferate because they are much less discriminating in their choice of nesting areas than the common European Honey Bee. They will nest in just about anything, for any reason, at any time they want to. They tend to swarm more often than other honey bees.

The first swarm of Africanized bees was found in Texas in October, 1990. Now, the bees have been found in all parts of Texas, and in Arizona, New Mexico, and California. They continue their northward expansion by swarming, the process by which bee colonies replicate. Contrary to the Hollywood movies, the deaths reported as a result of Africanized bees resulted from 18 to 40 stings.

What to do if you encounter Africanized Honey Bees:

  • Stay away from all honey bee swarms and colonies.
  • Get away from bees as quickly as possible.
  • While running, protect your face and eyes as much as possible.
  • Take shelter in an enclosed area such as a car, truck or building.
  • Call a local beekeeper, pest control company, or local cooperative extension agent for help.
  • Do not hide in water or thick brush.
  • Do not stand still and swat at bees; rapid movements will cause them to sting.

This advise is from Texas A&M University, who ought to know, since Texas was their first entry point into the USA. However, in a survival situation, phoning anybody may not be possible; and even if you could, the chances of anyone coming to your rescue are slim. Since the attention span of the Africanized bee seems to be at least 24 hours, be prepared for a long wait until they decide to leave the area. If you are in a vehicle, roll up the windows and get out of the area fast. If you are walking, cover every square inch of your body with as many layers of clothing possible. PROTECT YOUR EYES.

If you are stung by the Africanized Honey Bees:

  1. Get away from the bees as quickly as possible. Go to a safe area away from the bees, such as the inside of a car, truck or building.
  2. Pull or scrape stings off your skin as soon as possible. Most venom is released within 1 minute.
  3. Wash areas with soap and water like any other wound to prevent infection.
  4. Apply ice to relieve pain and swelling.
  5. Seek medical attention:
    • If Breathing is difficult
    • If stung many times
    • or if allergic to bee stings.


The best safety advice is to avoid an encounter with unfriendly Africanized Bees. Be alert for danger. Remember that AHB sting to defend their colony, so be on the look out for honey bee swarms and colonies.

  • Be alert for bees coming in and out of an opening such as a crack in a wall, or the hole in a utility box.
  • Listen for the hum of an active bee colony.
  • Look for bees in holes in the ground, holes in trees or cacti, and in sheds.
  • Be extra careful when moving junk that has been lying around.
  • Be alert for bees that are acting strangely. Quite often bees will display some preliminary defensive behavior before going into a full-fledged attack.
  • When you are outdoors, in a rural area, a park or wilderness reserve, be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for bees the way you would watch out for snakes and other natural dangers.
  • Don't panic at the sight of a few bees foraging in the flowers. Bees are generally very docile as they go about their normal activities.