Everything You Need To Know About African Bees
Though they are direct relatives, and have the same physical traits to the untrained eye, the differences between our gentle European honey bee and the African bee are like night and day. This hybrid strain, native to the African territories, was released in North America by accident, as scientists imported them in an attempt to create a hybrid super bee, of sorts. As greed often has the last word, science’s inability to leave the remarkable accomplishments of Nature’s little helper alone caused a major panic.
The movie depictions of clouds of blood thirsty bees attacking towns and killing at will are generally thought to be pure fantasy, but the reputation of this little devil certainly does proceed it. The African bee is more prone to swarming than are any other species, and they do this for various reasons. One swarming trigger is overcrowding within the hive, during which the worker bees set out to stake claim on a new local nesting site. The queen decides whether to go with the wanderers or to stay with the original colony, but in any situation where two mature queens are present within the same hive, they will fight to the death for their rightful place on the throne. The draw to this is that the winner rarely survives to rule.
African bees have an elevated alarm pheromone response, and this is the second trigger for their infamous swarming technique. These honey bees are horribly aggressive, and what’s worse, their chemical reaction is so strong that they can hold a grudge for days on end. The indigenous people of this bee’s native land have lived in fear of them for centuries, almost to the point of feeling hunted. The scientific explanation for this behavior is that the African bee, once the defense pheromone has been released, remains on high alert for an extended period of time. The indigenous people’s explanation for this is that the bees are demons.
This species is not as productive as our peaceful bee is, and produces less than 1/5th the honey per season than does a European honey bee colony of the same size. Their nesting habits and hierarchy are similar to those of the European strain as well. It is thought that such upsets as dark clothing, strong perfumes, loud noises, and shiny jewelry within 100 feet of the nesting site will trigger a defensive swarming of these bees. In the humans favor, this bee cannot fly very fast, so a relatively healthy person should be able to outrun the swarm if he runs in a straight line for at least half of a mile.
Thought there are many reported incidents of human deaths caused by swarming African bees, there is no cause to believe that they will attack a home or a city on a whim. They are spreading, however, through the warm southwestern territories of the United States, and scientists predict that with the help of good old fashioned will power and evolution, the swarming Africanized bee could reach as far east as Montana within ten years.