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The Bug Blog

When Bees Go Tribal

July 6, 2017
by Brian Olson, CEO, the bugman

A swarm of Africanized honey bees protecting a colony in the eaves of a Vista home went on the attack last weekend, killing at least one small dog and stinging three young women and a neighbor. “They were the most aggressive bees I’ve ever encountered...,” said an exterminator, who was called in to remove the large hive — a job still under way three days later. “I was stung underneath my suit multiple times, they were so aggressive.” The Africanized bee, and known colloquially as "killer bee", is a hybrid of the Western honey bee species (Apis mellifera), produced originally by cross-breeding of the African honey bee, with various European honey bees such as the Italian bee. The Africanized honey bee was first introduced to Brazil in the 1950s in an effort to increase honey production, but in 1957, 26 swarms accidentally escaped quarantine. Since then, the species has spread throughout South America and arrived in North America in 1985. Africanized bees are typically much more defensive than other species of bee, and react to disturbances faster than European honey bees. They can chase a person a quarter of a mile. They have killed some 1,000 humans, with victims receiving ten times more stings than from European honey bees. They have also killed horses, dogs, and other animals. Roughly 70 percent of bees in Southern California are partially Africanized — making them more aggressive than European honey bees — and that hot weather can make the bees more volatile. As the summer goes on, the bees become more irritable because they are running out of nectar as flowers dry out. Should someone find themselves under attack, they should either run away or get into a car. Even if bees have followed you inside the vehicle, stay there and crank the air conditioning because bees calm as the temperature lowers. Swatting at bees only makes things worse, as they become afraid and start messaging danger to others.

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