County of San Diego
Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures
Bee Alert – Africanized Honey Bee Facts
Africanized honey bees (AHB)–also called “killer bees”–are established in parts of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. Although the killer reputation has been greatly exaggerated, the presence of AHB increases the chances of people being stung. Learning about the AHB and taking certain precautions can lower the risk of being injured by this new insect in our environment. The Africanized honey bee is closely related to the European honey bee used in agriculture for crop pollination and honey production. The two types of bees look the same and their behavior is similar in many respects. Neither is likely to sting when gathering nectar and pollen from flowers, but both will sting in defense if provoked. A swarm of bees in flight or briefly at rest seldom bothers people. However, all bees become defensive when they settle, begin producing wax comb and raising young.
Africanized and European Bees:
• Look the same
• Protect their nests and sting in defense
• Can sting only once
• Have the same venom
• Pollinate flowers
• Produce honey and wax
Africanized honey bees are less predictable and more defensive than European honey bees. They are more likely to defend a greater area around their nest. They respond faster in greater numbers, although each bee can sting only once.
Africanized Honey Bees:
• Respond quickly and sting in large numbers
• Can sense a threat from people or animals 50 feet or more from nest
• Sense vibrations from power equipment 100 feet or more from nest
• Will pursue an enemy 1/4 mile or more
• Swarm frequently to establish new nests
• Nest in small cavities and sheltered areas
AHB nest in many locations where people may encounter them. Nesting sites include: empty boxes, cans, buckets or other containers; old tires; infrequently used vehicles; lumber piles; holes and cavities in fences, trees or the ground; sheds, garages and other outbuildings; and low decks or spaces under buildings. Remove potential nest sites around buildings. Be careful wherever bees may be found.