Africanized Honey Bee Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The Africanized honey bee (Apis mellifera) is a subspecies of a western honeybee which is primarily found in the sub-Saharan Africa. Africa alone is home to 10 subspecies of honeybees all of which are called African honey bees. They are also called killer bees. Back in 1950s authorities made an effort to increase the population as a result of which they introduced it in Brazil.

Africanized Honey Bee Facts

Behavior & Nature

Africanized Honey Bee versus European Honey Bee

  • Africanized honey bees are smaller than the European honey bees and they are easily recognizable.
  • Honey bees in general actively defend their nests. They will attack the intruder in 10 to 20 individuals. However the Africanized honey bees are going to attack in hundreds of bees. This shows not only the aggressive nature of killer bees but also the unity among them.
  • Unlike other honey bees, the African subspecies defends the larger radius around their nest.
  • Killer bees are thought to kill large mammals even humans. The very nature of it earns its name. Human deaths occur not because Africanized honey bees deliver large potency of venom but due to the fact that they attack in hundreds of numbers. They are smaller than European honey bees.
  • Unlike European bees, killer bees will abandon the nest in large numbers.
  • When the food is scarce, the killer bees will fly away while European cousins don’t.
  • They are likely to live in ground cavities as against European subspecies.
  • African honey bees have greater number of guards as compared to the European bees’ colonies.
  • They never reproduce in a single colony instead the reproduction occurs once the colony divides into two or more small colonies. Besides, they reproduce in great numbers.
  • European honey bees are thought to be rather selective when choosing the nesting sites. African honey bees on the other hand will make nests either in cavities on the ground, cement boxes, barbecue grills, water meter boxes, old tires, or house eaves. All these locations can never be the nesting sites of European cousins.
  • Unlike European honey bees, killer bees fly in large numbers when the nest or colony is disturbed. Only a small proportion of them remain in the hive.
Africanized Honey Bee
Africanized Honey Bee

Reproduction & Life Cycle

  • The mating biology of honey bees is likely to determine the success of large colonies. There seems to be no real difference between the mating biology of European bees and African honey bees.
  • The queen mates with drones and leave the colony for a while. They mate in the mid-air. According to the study the queen mates with as many as 20 drones within a period of 10 days.
  • The queen takes 14 days to grow into an adult. Worker takes 19 – 20 days while drone needs more than 3 weeks to reach adulthood.

Behavior & Nature

  • African honey bees are known to possess very defensive behavior and thus they pose great threats to humans.
  • They have got shorter wings as compared to native African bees or European subspecies.
  • The killer bees are sharp enough to detect a threat within a distance of 500 meters (1640 ft).
  • They are thought to attack victims without solid reason. This is why they are called killer bees.

Geographic Range

  • African honey bees were introduced in America in 2002. Currently they are distributed in the Central America as well as northern Argentina.
  • Their geographic range includes Florida, Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, and Trinidad (West Indies).


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