Frequently Asked Questions about
Africanized Honey Bees

Why are they called "Killer Bees?"

The proper term is Africanized Honey Bee (AHB). The popular term "killer bee" is the result of media shorthand. There is no doubt that the Africanized Honey Bee is more aggressive than docile European Honey Bees. But deaths by bee stings are extremely rare. A small percentage of the population is allergic to bee venom, just as certain people are allergic to peanuts. In a normal person a bee sting will not kill. In fact, it is estimated that it would take approximately 1,500 bee stings to kill a 150 pound healthy individual. Africanized Honey Bees have been in South and Central America since 1957 and in the United States since 1990. Deaths from their stings are very rare. Your odds of being struck by lightning are greater. Nonetheless, a non-beekeeper should exercise caution when around any bee hive.

Is the Venom in an Africanized Honey Bee stronger than in other bees?

No. The chemical makeup of the venom of Africanized Honey Bees is the same as in other bees. However, because AHB are more aggressive, the number of stings may be greater in number than with more docile bees.

Can Africanized Honey Bees sting you repeatedly?

Honey bees (unlike wasps) can only sting once. That is because the stinger on a bee is barbed. When a bee stings the stinger stays in the skin and, as the bee flies away, it suffers a fatal wound as its intestines pull out. Thus, when a bee stings, its life ends. This is true for AHB's as well as other honey bees. The only exception is the queen bee herself. Queen bees can sting repeatedly, but because they spend most of their lives inside the hive, the odds of you ever encountering a queen are astronomical.

I saw a bee on a flower. Will it sting me?

Almost never. Why? Because bees (including AHB's) normally sting only to protect the hive. When bees are foraging for nectar they are normally not next to their hive, so the protection instinct is not present. All honey bees are normally gentle while foraging.

How many stings does it take before a healthy person receives a deadly dose of bee venom?

According to the website of Texas A&M (under "Bee Sting Facts") it takes approximately ten stings per pound of body weight to administer a lethal dose. That means that a 150 pound individual would have to receive 1500 stings.

How many Texans have AHB's killed since they were discovered in Texas in 1990?

According to the website of Texas A&M (under "Africanized Honey Bees: Frequently Asked Questions") the lab in Texas has positively identified only one death from the sting of Africanized Honey Bees. On average, over the last 40 years, about two people per year die from regular honey bee stings. Often the deceased was allergic to bee stings. For further information on this topic click here.

Do Africanized Honey Bees fly faster than other bees?

No they do not. All honey bees have a maximum flight speed of between 12 to 15 miles per hour. AHB's are not larger, or more heavily muscled than other honey bees. Their maximum flight speed is the same as other honey bees.

What are the visible differences in Africanized Honey Bees and regular honey bees?

There are no differences visual to the naked eye. That means that the only way to determine that a particular bee is an Africanized Honey Bee is under the microscope. That is why suspect bees are sent to Texas A&M for identification. If the media reports that someone was stung by killer bees, you should be suspicious. AHB's might be responsible, but there is no way of knowing by the deadline for the ten o'clock news. The only way to determine whether the bees were AHB's is by the use of laboratory equipment and a computer. This usually takes days, or sometimes weeks. To read about how to submit sample bees to Texas A&M for identification, click here, or call them at 409-847-8771.

How long have Africanized Honey Bees been in the United States?

Africanized Honey bees have been in South American since 1957. They were first confirmed to be in the United States in 1990 when, on October 17, 1990, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence of AHB's in Hildago, Texas. There were no AHB's verified to be in Harris County until 2001. To view a map of the known range of AHB's, click here.

Where can I find the list of counties in the quarantine program for Africanized Honey Bees?

Texas A&M publishes a list of counties in the quarantine program. To view the list click here.

What should you do if you are stung by bees?

It is unlikely that you will ever be stung by bees unless you disturb the bees' hive. If you are stung, the best advise is to run away as fast as you can, until you get away from the bees. Get inside a house or car if possible. Try not to panic, but do not spend time trying to fight off the bees. Just get out of the area. How far do you have to run? This question is difficult to answer. It depends on how angry the bees are. Just remember to run. Do not stand around and do not think that by remaining motionless that you can get out of the difficulty. But please keep this in mind: bee stings are rare, and fatalities from bee stings are extremely rare.

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