African Killer Bee Movement

African Killer Bees Map

U.S. Geographic Killer Bee Spread

The start of the killer bee problem in the United States, started when one swarm of Africanized honeybees entered the U.S. from Mexico in 1990. They were the first descendants of Africanized honeybees to migrate northward into the United States from ancestors that escaped into the Brazilian countryside in the late 1950's and interbred with the more docile European bees. Those original African bees had been imported into Brazil by scientists seeking to breed a bee better suited to tropical countries than the European bees then existing in both South and North America.
One concern of beekeepers is that Africanized bees defend their nests more aggressively than European bees, making them extremely difficult to manage. They also swarm more often and grow to adults more quickly, which means they can gain a population advantage over other bees. The bee sting venom of an Africanized bee is not anymore potent than that of a common European honeybee, and the Africanized honeybees are some what smaller than its European cousin. Mass animal and people stinging attacks are very terrifying and can be very life threatening if the target is very sensitive to bee venom. However, attacks are still fairly uncommon in the United States since people know what to look for and call to have them removed. Some exaggerated reports of Africanized honeybee attacks resulted in the bees’ being characterized as "killer bees" in some media reports and several movies.
USDA scientists are warning that US beekeepers’ losses could be large if the aggressive nature of the Africanized bees in this country is similar to that in Southern American countries. In some regions of South America, beekeeping and honey output declined sharply when as many as 80% of the non-professional beekeepers and 20% of the commercial beekeepers abandoned their beehives because the new strains of bees were more difficult to handle. The aggressive traits and actions of the Africanized honeybees in some areas of the world include defensive protective behavior, excessive group swarming, and habituating a wide variety of mild climate locations. Scientists are working to reduce or eradicate these dangerous traits before Africanized honeybees are fully established in the United States.

As of 2002, the aggressive Africanized bees have moved from Brazil south to northern Argentina and north to Central America countries, Mexico,regions of the Caribbean, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida and now highly populated California. The killer bee expansion slow down for a little bit in the east Texas border region, possibly because of the large number of year round bee beekeepers in the area. However, discoveries of the killer bees in warm southern Louisiana indicate this species of bee range has finally penetrated across the Caribbean Sea, or has been a sneaky stowaway as a hidden swarm aboard a unchecked cruise or cargo ship. Around the time of June 2005, it was uncovered that the Africanized killer bees had bypassed the border of the state of Texas and had enlarged their beehive range into lower Southwest Arkansas. On about September 11, 2007, then Dept. of Agriculture Commissioner Robert Fulton Odom, Jr. said that Africanized honeybees had also established themselves in the New Orleans area.

At the top rate of their travel, they spread/flew north at a rate of almost one mile a day. In the growing central mild climate regions they compete effectively against the peaceful European bees. There had been talk about slowing the killer bee spread down by placing large quantities of claim European-strain beehives in important key stopping/resting locations, especially at the choke-hold Isthmus in Panama, but they were to slow and unable to stop the bees' quick range movement. The genetics of these killer bees, however, suggest that such a strategy, had it been attempted, would not have been very successful.

Curiously, their arrival in warm Central America is a threat to the ancient art of keeping friendly stingless bees in log gums. As honey productivity of the Africanized killer bees far exceeds the productivity of the native stingless bees, bee keepers and local bees will be under a lot of pressure to keep their historic territory.

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