In the 1950’s, scientists brought African Honeybees to Brazil where they were crossed with European Honeybees in hope of creating a hybrid bee with improved honey production. In 1956, 12 of these Africanized Honeybee (AHB) queens were released into the wild. The hybrid AHB spread north across Latin America. In 1990, the first AHB colonies invaded the USA, in deep south Texas. The first recorded death attributable to AHB occurred near Harlingen, Texas in 1991. Today California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida have all reported growing numbers of AHB colonies. Recently, Virginia reported an AHB colony.The AHB carries distinctive characteristics from the European honeybee commonly found in the United States. Both subspecies are roughly 5/8 of an inch long, brownish and slightly fuzzy. Any physical differences between the two are detectable only by microscope. Both protect their nests from predators by stinging. Like European honeybees, the AHB stings once and then dies.
The most significant difference between the two species is that the AHB is much more aggressive in the protection of its hive. Bees attack because of unwanted contact and become extremely defensive when confronted with vibrations and movement.
A devastating trait of attacking bees is that they are drawn to carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas exhaled by all mammals. In severe bee attacks, the victims are typically found with their nostrils, ears, and mouth full of bee stings. This attack technique makes escape even more difficult. Furthermore, AHB’s are known to hover over water in which a victim has taken refuge.