The Killer Bee, the Africanised Honey Bee
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The Killer Bee, the Africanised Honey Bee

The future of the Africanised honeybee is a quandary; they are an invasive species and a serious threat to native bees, but yet they are manmade and really do not have a natural environment to live in.

The Africanised honeybee is a hybrid of African honeybees and European honeybees. These hybrids can be found in South and Central America, and also in the southern parts of the United States. The Africanised honeybee owes its fame and its name “killer bee” to the media who made it famous between the 1970’s to the early 1990’s.

The origins of the Africanised honeybee are well documented, as they were manmade. They were created by the mid 1950s by biologist Warwick E. Kerr. He was trying to create a strain of bees that would produce more honey than the European honeybee and be able to survive the tropical heat of South America. Dr. Kerr imported 26 Tanzanian queen bees and bred them with European bees. The crossbreeding was successful as the bees do produce more honey and can survive in the tropical weather; however, they are also very hyper-defensive. Just a couple of years after their creation, in the late 1950s, all 26 of the Africanised honeybee colonies were accidentally released by a novice beekeeper. The bees spread quickly, killing off native bees as they went; they spread through South American, Central America and into the Southern United States.

The appearance of the Africanised honeybee is similar to a European bee. They are very similar in size and the only difference in their appearance is that the Africanised honeybee has a darker coloration. The major difference between Africanised honeybees and European bees is the conduct of their colonies. Africanised honeybees are hyper-defensive, which means they will aggressively attack any perceived threat. They tend to swarm and attack at the slightest provocation and will chase the perceived threat mercilessly for far longer distances than European bees. Africanised honeybees have more “soldiers” and “guards” than other types of bees; they are also more apt to evacuate their hive when stressed.

Africanised honeybees are a nectar-eating insect, which spreads pollen from one plant to another and creates honey. Due to their aggressive nature, they have limited predators, only desperate bears, the highly aggressive South American stingless bee known as the Trigona spinipes, and humans. As they are an invasive species that can have negative effects on agriculture, and are a serious threat to native bees and beekeepers.

Despite their ferocious reputation, Africanised honey bees are not the “killer bees” that the media makes them out to be. They are aggressive and sting more people than the other types of bees, but only cause the deaths of 1-2 people worldwide each year. The future of the Africanised honeybee is a quandary; they are an invasive species and a serious threat to native bees, but yet they are manmade and really do not have a natural environment to live in. Africanised honeybees are simply trying to survive in a world where they are not welcome.

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