Africanized Honey Bees

Africanized honey bees are the result of breeding bees from southern Africa with local Brazilian honey bees. When a group of Brazilian scientists imported bees from southern Africa in the hopes of breeding a bee adaptable to tropical conditions, several escaped and bred with local honey bees, creating the Africanized honey bee. They spread quickly to Central and South America, and today the Africanized honey bee also infests areas of North America.

Habitat & Range

After their spread through South America, Africanized honey bees entered the United States via the southern region of Texas in the early 1990s. Colonies of Africanized honey bees then swarmed to other areas, such as Arizona and California. Today, Africanized honey bees have spread to many states of the southern U.S.

Africanized honey bees are highly adaptive and can nest in varying locations, including places where humans reside. When natural nesting locations are unavailable they will nest in empty boxes, containers, old vehicles and tires, trees, garages, underground and outside of buildings.


European and Africanized honey bees resemble one another, but their habits and behaviors are very different: the Africanized honey bee is more aggressive than its European counterpart and has earned the popular nickname “killer bee.” They are known to respond to slight disturbances within a wide range of their hives. They swarm around their nests, attack in large numbers when threatened and have been known to chase perceived enemies for over a mile. Africanized honey bees are particularly sensitive to noise and vibration and can be instigated to attack by slight movements.

It is common to see large groups of Africanized honey bees around their hives, and they tend to swarm more often than other species of honey-producing bees. While the venom of Africanized honey bees is no more poisonous than that of domesticated honey bees, because they attack in large numbers, an attack can cause severe injuries or death due to the volume of stings. Africanized honey bees will also travel greater distances to attack, and once a colony of Africanized honey bees is disturbed, it could remain frantic for a period of time afterwards.

They will migrate when they experience a food shortage around their hives or if their hives are disturbed by a human. Africanized honey bees are unable to survive harsh conditions, such as excessive cold or extremely dry climates.

Africanized honey beesAfricanized Honey Bee Image licensed under CC