What are killer bees?

Killer bees earned their name from the characteristics of easily swaying and aggressively swarming, killing a victim by overpowering them with sheer numbers and hundreds of stings.

A bee.

Unlike the common honeybee, it’s not uncommon for something as simple as a vibration, noise, or even the smell of freshly cut grass to trigger a swarm of killer bees. Once agitated, killer bees can chase a fleeing victim for up to a quarter of a mile (half a kilometer). If the victim jumps into a body of water, the bees will fly over the surface, waiting for the victim to come up for air. Killer bees killed animals and people.

Killer bees are known to attack livestock and other animals.

Killer bees look virtually identical to the common honeybee, which is not native to the United States but was imported from Europe by colonists to obtain honey. European honey bees are comparatively docile, more fussy than killer bees about where they choose to nest and produce more honey.

In 1956, Brazilian scientist Warwick Estevam Kerr was tasked with finding out why European honey bees in South America were not producing properly. Suspecting hot weather might be the problem, he crossed bees from tropical Africa, known for being aggressive, with European bees. The new strain, known as Africanized bees, escaped quarantine before a selection process could be completed, which would have constrained the aggressive nature of the new strain. Killer bees were born in the wild.

Killer bees are a cross between bees from tropical Africa and European bees.

The new bees colonized at a remarkable rate of about 300 miles a year, spreading across the tropics of South and Central America. The first recorded migration of killer bees to the United States was in Hidalgo, Texas, in October 1990. Over the next 5 years, they continued their colonizing journey across the southern United States.

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Experts are divided on the question of how far north the killer bees will colonize. Some believe their migration will reach a natural climatic limit along the 34th parallel. Others believe they may eventually colonize all the way north to Canada.

The sting of a killer bee produces the same venom as a common bee. The difference is that killer bees are more likely to attack in greater numbers and with less provocation. The first recorded human attack in the United States was in Brownsville, Texas in May 1991. The first human fatality in the United States was in Harlingen Texas in July 1993.

If you suspect that killer bees have taken up residence nearby, it is recommended that you bring pets inside and contact a professional service to remove the bees. Killer bees will also attack cattle, horses and other animals. As a precautionary measure, seal off all external places in the house where bees can enter and nest, such as roof openings.

If attacked by killer bees, experts recommend running back the way you came, and covering your head and face, which are the most aggressively attacked body parts. Find shelter in a building or car. A bee only stings once and then dies, but the stingers left on the skin contain pouches that continue to pump out the venom for several minutes, so remove the stingers immediately and seek medical attention. Dark clothes and hair are known to attract bees more than light colors.

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