Many people are familiar with Africanized honey bees, but just about everyone has heard the term “killer bees” numerous times. The Africanized honey bee is an extremely aggressive non-native honey bee in North America, and due to their aggressive swarming behavior around humans, which sometimes results in fatalities, the species has become known as the “killer bee”. Africanized honey bees (AHB) are native to Africa, but a scientist brought the species to a laboratory in Brazil in order to breed the species with other species in an effort to increase honey yields. Shortly after beginning his interbreeding program, the AHB escaped and slowly migrated north, eventually arriving in Texas in 1990. Shortly thereafter, the AHB began to interbreed with common European honey bees in New Mexico and Arizona. By 2001, AHB arrived in Louisiana for the first time at Caddo Parish. In 2005, officials with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry determined that Caddo, Calcasieu and Cameron parish had become infested with the aggressive non-native bees. By 2007, the AHB arrived in New Orleans, and today, officials are attempting to reduce their populations with traps located in various areas of the state.
Africanized honey bees are not as resilient to cold weather and bouts of rainfall as their European counterparts, which helps keep the bees under control in rainy Louisiana. This also explains why AHB pose the greatest public health risk in Arizona compared to all other states where the bees have established hives. The dry Sonoran desert is an ideal habitat for AHB, making attacks in Louisiana more rare.
It is not easy to tell the difference between common European honey bees and AHB, as both species appear nearly identical, only European honey bees are slightly larger in body size than AHB. Behavioral differences between the two species are more pronounced, although both species become aggressive when their hives are approached or disturbed by humans. Of course, AHB are far more aggressive than European honey bees, and AHB are known for pursuing humans over greater distances than European honey bees. While both species are often found nesting within homes, particularly within wall voids, it is exceptionally rare for and AHB colony to establish a nest within a Louisiana home.
Have you ever been pursued by an angry honey bee swarm?