Africanized “killer” bees are a type of honey bee that is a common nuisance for Texas homeowners. They were first introduced to the United States in 1990 when the killer bees escaped from a testing facility in Brazil. In North America, the first recorded sighting of Africanized killer bees was near the United States and Mexico border in the town of Hidalgo, Texas. From there, they have spread across the southern United States. If you’ve heard of a killer bee, it’s likely because of the news that seems to pop up every year about residents just within a few hours reach of Dallas, TX being swarmed, with some attacks being fatal. Their presence is a double edged sword because although humans can suffer from being within reach of killer bees, their ability to pollinate and improve the environment is significant. While living or working in the Dallas area, it’s important that you know what Africanized killers bees are, how to prevent them, and what to do if you encounter them.

What is an Africanized bee?

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All honey bees go through a complete metamorphosis during their lifecycle. The time spent from an egg to an adult varies per caste level that each bee is a part of. Much like termites, Africanized bees function as a unit with multiple “castes.” These castes are made of a queen, workers, and drones. The queen is responsible for mating and growing the colony. She mates with an average of 10-20 drones in 7-10 days when it comes time to expand the castes. Drones are typically all males and are a result of unfertilized eggs. Workers are all females that exist to physically construct the nest.

Why do I have them?

Dangerous scenarios occur when Africanized bees begin “swarming”. Swarming means that some killer bees break away from the hive to create an additional hive with the goal of expanding their colony. This behavior can happen more than 10 times per year! They are not very picky but prefer to nest in cavities or hollow areas. This includes spots such as garages, sheds, crawl spaces, trees, chimneys, old tires, barbeque grills, tree hollows, and fences, all of which are concerns for homeowners.

Are they dangerous?

Killer bees attack as a defense mechanism when they feel that the nest is threatened. They are not known to find humans or pets to attack without being provoked. The bad news is that once an Africanized bee decides you are a threat, they have the capability to fly up to ¼ mile in pursuit. Another downside of Africanized bee nesting on your property is that they reproduce and swarm in large numbers and very quickly throughout the season.

If you are chased by an Africanized bee, suggests following these tips:

  • Run away in a straight line, protecting your face. Africanized bees are slow fliers and most healthy people can outrun them.
  • Avoid other people, or they, too, will be attacked.
  • Do not try and hide underwater. The Africanized bee swarm will wait for you to surface.
  • Seek medical attention. Some people are allergic to bee stings, which can cause anaphylactic shock. Since Africanized bees attack and sting in great numbers, it is possible for them to trigger an allergic response.

How do I get rid of Africanized bees?

Photo Credit: Georgia Department of Agriculture

Certified does not recommend that you approach or try to get rid of an Africanized bee nest. They are highly dangerous and can sting in groups of thousands if they feel threatened. Killer bees can fly 100 feet away from the hive to chase you once they deem you as a target. If you find an Africanized bee nest on your property, call Certified as soon as possible.

How can I prevent Africanized bees from nesting on my property?

There is no way to 100% bee-proof your home and property. However, there are some steps you can take to discourage nesting. Clean up debris around your property, including old tires and overturned or empty flower pots. To prevent breakthroughs, seal cracks and crevices around the exterior of your home, paying close attention to chimneys, gaps around piping, and other small openings. Nothing can be more terrifying than killer bees flying into your home. Although unlikely, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.