Killer bees earned their name for the characteristics of easy agitation and an aggressive swarm, killing a victim by subduing them with large numbers and hundreds of bites.
Unlike the common honey bee, it’s no wonder that something as simple as a vibration, a noise, or even the smell of freshly cut grass triggers a swarm of killer bees. When agitated, killer bees can chase a victim fleeing up to a quarter of a mile (half a kilometer). If the victim jumps into a body of water, the bees swarm to the surface, waiting for the victim to come in for air. Killer bees have killed animals and humans.
The killer bees look virtually identical to the common bee, which is not native to the United States, but was brought from Europe by settlers in search of honey. European honey bees are comparatively docile, more discriminatory than killer bees in places where they choose to nest and produce more honey.
In 1956, Brazilian Warwick scientist Estevam Kerr was commissioned to find out why European honey bees from South America did not produce properly. Suspecting that hot weather could be the problem, he crossed bees from tropical Africa, known to be aggressive, with European honey bees. The new strain, known as Africanized bees, escaped quarantine before a selection process could be completed that would have limited the aggressive nature of the new strain. Killer bees are born and in the wild.
The new bees colonized at a remarkable rate of about 300 miles per year, spreading through the tropics of South and Central America. The first recorded migration of killer bees to the United States took place in Hidalgo, Texas, in October 1990. For the next 5 years, they continued their colonization journey to the southern parts of the United States.
Experts are divided on the extent to which killer bees will colonize. Some believe their migration will reach a natural climatic boundary along the 34th parallel. Others believe they could eventually colonize all of northern Canada.
The sting of a killer bee produces the same poison as a common bee. The difference is that killer bees are more likely to attack in greater numbers and with less provocation. The first recorded human attack in the United States took place in Brownsville, Texas, in May 1991. The first human death in the United States took place in Harlingen, Texas, in July 1993.
If you suspect that killer bees have settled nearby, we recommend that you bring pets inside and contact a professional service to remove the bees. Killer bees will also attack livestock, horses and other farm animals. As a precaution, close all outdoor areas of the house where bees can find the entrance and nest, such as roof openings.
In case of attack by killer bees, experts recommend going back and covering your head and face, which are the most aggressively attacked body parts. Find shelter in a building or car. A bee can only sting once and then die, but the stings that remain on the skin contain sacks that continue to pump the venom for a few minutes, so remove them quickly and consult a doctor. Dark clothes and dark hair are more appealing to bees than light colors.