Have you ever heard of Africanized bees? These creatures are usually referred to as killer bees, making people instantly scared. This is exacerbated by media reports and movies that depict the bees as unstoppable killers. But their reputation is actually very far from reality. The term killer bees can be very misleading, although there’s truth in them killing hundreds of people over the past few decades. In this resource, you’ll learn more about Africanized bees, how they earned their nickname, and whether you should be scared of them.
It all started in 1956 when Warwick Kerr, a Brazilian scientist, brought African honeybees to South America. His goal was to breed a more productive strain. But since the creatures are extremely difficult to control, some of them were able to escape. The African honeybees bred with European honeybees, which prompted the rise of a hybrid species.
The new species of Africanized honeybees started to spread at a rapid rate. They made their way to Mexico by 1985. More recent studies about their spread showed that they had now penetrated San Francisco.
But before they were able to invade several countries, the Africanized honeybees already earned the nickname of killer bees. This is precisely the reason why countless people fear this particular species. It also inspired several films that depicted the creatures as one of the most lethal killers in the world, showing no remorse to their victims.
One of the first things you need to understand is that the Africanized honeybee is actually smaller than its European counterpart. This smaller size means that the species carries less venom. That may not make a difference if the venom is deadlier, right? But according to scientists, the venom carried by Africanized honeybees isn’t any more potent. This means that European honeybees are actually the bigger threat between the two.
The reason why these creatures are considered killers is the fact that they defend their hives in a more aggressive manner. Several studies show that Africanized bees respond to disturbances in their colony much more quickly. They also defend in larger numbers and with more stinging. The fact that these bees respond very aggressively helps explain why they have caused numerous deaths over the past few decades.
For an average-sized adult to get a lethal dose of venom, it would require approximately 1,000 bee stings. European honeybees aren’t known to deliver such a high number of stings even when defending their colony. On the other hand, this is quite normal for Africanized bees.
Still, labeling them as killer bees is very misleading. This is something that numerous scientists have explained over the years. The nickname gives people the impression that the creatures are actively looking for victims. In reality, however, they only attack people when their hive gets disturbed. Even if you’re strolling in a field full of foraging bees, they won’t show any signs of aggression as long as you don’t do anything to their hive.