Honey Bees or Africanized Honey Bees?

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Not every insect is a pest.

Honey bees – especially those cultivated by professional beekeepers – are quite possibly the most crucial insect species we have. There’s more to it than just the honey, too. According to the USDA, approximately one-third of our diet is made up of crops that are pollinated by bees. Many plants would not produce vegetables and fruit if it were not for the work done by honey bees.

Unless there is a hive or colony located near pets or people, it’s best to leave well enough alone and let the honey bees do their thing. If you discover a hive in a spot that is troubling, a reliable exterminator can remove the colony or, in some instances, move it to a safer place.

With all that said, however, there are instances when bees can be a serious threat. “Killer” bees are not only a myth – they’re a real phenomenon known as Africanized honey bees.

It is a process that happens after a new queen is now an adult and a part of the old colony leaves to create a new hive somewhere else.

That is where the threat comes in. One bee sting, except in the rare case of a severe allergic response, isn’t dangerous. A dozen can send you to the emergency room. Because Africanized bees swarm in greater numbers and are typically a lot more aggressive than ordinary honey bees, AHB swarms can easily inflict 100 or more bites in a frighteningly short time period.

Even when they aren’t swarming, AHBs are more hostile when it comes to protecting their dwelling. They actively guard their hives and, while they don’t randomly attack humans and creatures they encounter when gathering pollen, Africanized bees will attempt to bite”invaders” who come within as much as 100 feet of their colony. Regular honey bees rarely sting people who wander up to within 15 feet of their house, and even then they often won’t attack unless the hive itself is disturbed. 

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So how can you tell a standard honey bee and its hive from one that’s Africanized? You can not, which amplifies the danger. It has only been lately that federal and state officials have added Arkansas and Oklahoma to the list of areas that AHBs now inhabit. They were found in southeastern Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas in 2005, but they have steadily moved into wider areas of both states.

Today, you should think about any bee and its colony to be Africanized, merely to be on the safe side. If you see a hive, move away quickly and get a reliable pest management agency and your local county extension office. If you are stung, RUN and don’t stop running until you are safely indoors or in another enclosure, like your car.

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