Living With Killer Bees

In a previous post, I described the importation of the killer (or Africanized) bee into the Americas and its invasion of the Southern US. Currently, killer bees can be found in all the Southern tier US states from California to Georgia.

Recently, a couple from South Texas near the Mexico border was stung to death by killer bees. A 90 year old man sprayed insecticide on a bee swarm that was nesting in his chimney. The bees attacked the man and his wife, stinging them over 300 times. The man’s 67 year old son was stung numerous times but survived. The killer bees are more aggressive than the European bees that have been bred to be docile. People who are killed by bees are often elderly, infirm or are trapped so they cannot quickly escape. In this case, the swarm was inside the house, making it difficult for the residents to escape.

Increasingly, attacks by bees have been reported in Arizona, Texas, Florida and Georgia. A Georgia man was killed when his bulldozer struck a nest. The first responders were not prepared to rescue the victim who was covered with aggressive bees. This led first responders to purchase bee protection equipment- veils, gloves and bee suits so that victims can be removed without the responders being stung.

What to do if attacked by killer bees? Run! The killer bees will pursue for longer distances than the European bees, so you may have to run for distance. However, as distance from the nest increases, pursuing bees will drop off. Pulling a shirt or clothing over your head can protect the head and face. If you are trapped and cannot get away, wrapping in a blanket or thick fabric that the bees cannot penetrate will provide protection until the bees become calm. What not to do? Do not swat the bees. Crushing the bees will release alarm pheromone and recruit more bees to attack and sting you.

Large numbers of bees are best left to professional exterminators or beekeepers who have the equipment to remove the bees safely. The killer bees are more likely to swarm. Thus, the bees that most people are likely to encounter outside of hives are the killer bees. Surveys for killer bees are conducted by the states and the USDA. A summary of areas where killer bees have been positively identified can be found at Pest Tracker.

Killer Bee Map From Pest Tracker

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Environment, Health, Invasive Species, News, Pest Management. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Living With Killer Bees

  1. Joyce Hill says:

    Inflamation occured due to killer bee stings. The symptoms have been on going for two years. Please publish any information you have on inflamation and killer bee stings.


    • Louise lynch says:

      Here’s a tip.. If your getting attacked by killer bees cover up your face and neck that’s were they will try to sting you and those places a pretty deadly!🐝

  2. Pingback: The Sunday Bug Bash: Super-sized! | The Bug Whisperer

  3. Roberta says:

    I can just imagine the horror of being attacked by a swarm of these things.

    Sometime back,I saw a recue 911 show,and they did a case where a woman was attacked in California I think,and when paramedics arrived she swollen like twive her size,and could no longer defend herself…something out of a horror movie.

    One thing I’m curious about,is from what I have read about these killer bees,is the can’t handle a cold harsh climate.

    Here in Minnesota,the bees survive just fine and hybernate,or become whatever that word is “dorment”? matter how cold it got..even -40 below zero.They just sit in their hives all winter,like in a frozen state…Come spring when it warms up,there they are again.

    If this bee adapts,and has mutated by crossing with another species of bee,why can’t they do the same thing again with the bees that can handle the colder weather in the northern regions?

    Auuugh..I just don’t even like the thoughts of these things setting up a hive in my neck of the woods.

    Very good article,and you have the most up to date info on these bees I’ve seen.

    Good work!!


    • jjneal says:

      The “africanized bees” swarm more readily and put up less honey. They don’t survive the winter very well because they don’t store enough food. In the past decade, the mite that attack honey bees have been so bad that very few feral colonies of honey bees, domesticated or africanized.

      PestTracker has a map showing the location of Africanized bees.
      They are not established in your area, but bee keepers do move hives around the US, so it is possible for them to move an “africanized hive” to an uninfested area. They would not survive. Bee keepers will monitor hives and get rid of colonies that are too aggressive and that limits much of the movement.

    • Louise lynch says:

      Killer bees are really scary😨!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Do they look like huge bees with a black end

  5. dianabuja says:

    Most interesting. I was at INPA in Manaus, Brazil (National Institute of Amazonian Research) some years ago – and it was when one or more swarms of African bees were liberated to the wild by mistake. Then, as we know, they traveled north.

  6. Kevin Wright says:

    I was attacked after running my bulldozer in the woods in central oklahoma. I was stung 20 times. I have one killer bee in jar. Scary experience!

  7. Rhonda says:

    I’d like to talk with you about africanized bees in regard to pollinator/gardening book I’m writing. Thanks.

  8. Pingback: The Sunday Bug Bash: Super-sized! | Splendour Awaits

  9. Louise lynch says:

    Hello! I was just reading a book about killer bees! They are very scary things😨 ➕🐝 equals😵!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s