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African Bees

African Killer Bee Nest [© CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 tshantz https://www.flickr.com/photos/tshantz/]
African Killer Bee Nest [© CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 tshantz https://www.flickr.com/photos/tshantz/]

When you think of dangers from wild animals and insects in Florida, the first creatures that come to mind are alligators, sharks, snakes, mosquitoes and poisonous spiders but now another insect is spreading through Florida - African honey bees, known colloquially as African killer bees because of their fierce reputation.

African bees were originally introduced into Brazil in the 1950s to improve honey production but they escaped into the wild and have been spreading northwards ever since. They have now been reported in more than 26 Florida counties and can be found in all the Central Florida counties including the areas around Orlando and Kissimmee.

The cold winter weather had prevented them from establishing themselves in the more Northern Florida counties but they are hybridising with the local European honey bees and becoming more adaptable. Experts predict they will be endemic in all of Florida in a couple of years time.

To combat the threat, the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and the U. S. Department of Agriculture have set up "bait" hives to try and capture African bee colonies that attempt to get into Florida from surrounding areas. Local beekeepers are also helping by attempting to remove African bee nests and by maintaining their own hives, they can dilute the African bees population and reduce the risk of them taking over.

Unlike normal honey bees that are relatively docile, African bees are highly defensive and will attack en-masse anything they think is threatening them. They have been known to chase things for up to a mile and pets, horses and children are particularly vulnerable. Whilst their sting is no more lethal than a normal bee, it is the sheer number of bees attacking that is the danger, particularly if a person or animal is in any way allergic to bee stings.

Precautions When Dealing With Bees

However to put it all into context, deaths from bee stings are rare and you are more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by African bees despite some of the sensational stories in the newspapers!

If you do have the misfortune to disturb any bee swarms the best advice is to run and seek shelter. Try to cover your face as bees will tend to sting the face and head.  If you are stung then you should seek medical attention particularly if you receive multiple stings.