Characteristics –Size: About 1/2-inch in length.
Color: Golden-yellow with darker bands of brown. Some specimens appear a darker brown than others.
- Behavior – Africanized honeybees (AHB) are actually a subspecies of the European honeybee, and the two look exactly the same. Only an expert making numerous microscopic measurements can tell the two apart. The difference, however, becomes readily apparent in the aggressiveness of the AHB when its colony is disturbed, lending to its nickname “killer bees.” The AHB releases an alarm pheromone that calls all the workers to “battle” where they will attack and sting any moving animal or object. They will chase and sting people for hundreds of yards and have been known to sting people and pets over a whole neighborhood block.
- Deaths may occur due to allergic reactions from the larger number of stings received. It may take hours for the bees to settle down and return to the colony. Other honeybees will attack and sting for a few minutes and then settle down rather quickly. Since one cannot tell the difference between AHB and other honeybees simply by looking, all honeybees in areas where the AHB are active should be viewed with caution. honeybees are the only type of social bee that establish perennial colonies that may survive a decade or longer. These bees forage on pollen and nectar from flowering plants and use these materials to produce the honey that will feed the colony through the winter months. Waxy honeycombs will fill the nest cavity, a fact that makes removal of honeybees from buildings a messy chore. All honeybee colonies produce queens and drones in the spring. These reproductives mate, and the queens may “abscond” with a number of workers with which they start new colonies. These swarms may be seen clustered on a tree branch, a fence, or a building as the bees rest before flying off again to find a suitable nesting site. Because hundreds of bees are part of this swarm, people are often concerned about the possibility of the bees attacking. Usually, the bees in these swarms are docile and non-aggressive unless vigorously disturbed.
- Habitat – In the United States, the AHB has become established from Texas over to southern California. Colonies have also been discovered in Florida and a few other southeastern states but these have been quickly eradicated. In the wild, honeybees most often nest inside cavities of trees, but they will also nest within caves and cracks in rock formations. Occasionally, a colony will decide to nest inside a crawl space, an attic, a wall void, or a chimney in a home.
- Tips for Control – Because the Africanized honeybee cannot be distinguished from its native cousins without detailed scientific measurements, any honeybee nest or swarm found in southwestern states should be respected at a safe distance. Only experienced beekeepers and/or pest management professionals should be contacted to deal with colonies or swarms of honeybees. Never attempt to treat such nests without the proper training and equipment.
Once the colony inside a wall or attic has been eliminated, the building owner will need to open the wall and remove all the honey and honeycomb. If not removed, the honey will rot, produce strong odors and seeping stains, and will attract other insect pests.