How Did Killer Bees Wind Up In America?

How Did Killer Bees Wind Up In America?

We have all heard the term “killer bees” before, but are there really killer bees in the United States? Are killer bees native to America? Killer bees are also referred to as Africanized honey bees or A.m. scutellata. These bees are a subspecies of western honey bees. Western honey bees are officially known as Apis mellifera Linnaeus. Technically honey bees originate from the continent of Africa, but a multitude of different bee species have been introduced to Europe and the Americas. Due to the economic importance of bees as pollinators and producers of honey, Africanized honey bees have been spread all over the world, including the US.

Initially only honey bees that were common in Europe were moved to America for economic purposes. However, in the tropical South American climate, European honey bees did not survive for long. In an effort to breed honey bees in Brazil Warwick Kerr, a Brazilian scientist, imported Africanized honey bees into Brazil from South Africa. Kerr noticed that the Africanized honey bees were relatively aggressive, so he attempted breed more behaviorally gentle bees. Unfortunately, many of these Africanized honey bees escaped from his lab in Brazil before Kerr could start breeding the bees to be less aggressive. Ever since then, Africanized honey bees have mated with many different types of bees. Originally Africanized honey bees were known simply as “African” honey bees. But after several bee populations mated with the African bees, each population became “Africanized.” Today experts use the terms interchangeably. The descendents of the Africanized bee population that escaped Kerr’s lab rapidly moved through Central America and into Mexico and then America. Experts claim that the invasive bees traveled up to three hundred miles per year. This makes Africanized honey bees one of the most biologically successful invasive insects known to man.

Do you know how to spot an Africanized honey bee?




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