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The Africanized Honey Bee (Killer Bees)

The Los Angeles County Agriculture Commissioner, responsible for monitoring serious pest infestations in the county, reported 23 "interceptions" of Africanized Honey Bee hives in 2000.

Africanized Honey Bee Hotline: 1-800-BEE WARY (1-800-233-9279)


The first swarm of Africanized Honey Bees (Killer Bees) detected in Los Angeles County arrived on July 12, 1994 from Guatemala at Los Angeles harbor aboard the Dutch freighter Ned Lloyd Van Deiman. The bees had been detected by the crew while the ship was still at sea. U.S. authorities were immediately notified. Upon its arrival in Los Angeles, the ship was boarded by a team from the Environmental Protection Bureau of the County Department of Agriculture and the bees located and destroyed. They were later confirmed to be Africanized Honey Bees. Los Angeles County was declared "colonized" by Africanized Honey Bees in April 1999. They may be found anywhere in the county except rarely above 3,000 feet elevation and only seasonally  in the Antelope Valley.

Bee Prepared

Africanized honey bees--also called "killer bees"--became established in Texas in 1990 and have been spreading to other states. Africanized honey bees are now considered to be permanent residents of Southern California. Although its "killer" reputation has been greatly exaggerated, the presence of Africanized honey bees will increase the chances of people being stung. Learning about the Africanized honey bees and taking certain precautions can lower the risk of being injured by this new insect in our environment.

The Africanized honey bee is closely related to the European honey bee used in agriculture for crop pollination and honey production. The two types of bees look the same and their behavior is similar in many respects. Neither is likely to sting when gathering nectar and pollen from flowers, but both will sting in defense if provoked. A swarm of bees in flight or briefly at rest seldom bothers people. However, all bees become defensive when they settle, begin producing wax comb and raising young.

Africanized and European Honey Bees...

  • Look the same
  • Protect their nest and sting in defense
  • Can sting only once
  • Have the same venom
  • Pollinate flowers
  • Produce honey and wax

Africanized honey bees are less predictable and more defensive than European honey bees. They are more likely to defend a greater area around their nest. They respond faster in greater numbers, although each bee can sting only once.

Africanized Honey Bees Can...

  • Respond quickly and sting in large numbers
  • Ssense a threat from people or animals 50 feet or more from nest
  • Sense vibrations from power equipment 100 feet or more from nest
  • Pursue an enemy 1/4 mile or more
  • Swarm frequently to establish new nests
  • Nest in small cavities and sheltered areas

Africanized honey bees nest in many locations where people may encounter them. Nesting sites include: empty boxes, cans, buckets or other containers; old tires; infrequently used vehicles; lumber piles; holes and cavities in fences, trees or the ground; sheds, garages and other outbuildings; and low decks or spaces under buildings. Remove potential nest sites around buildings. BE CAREFUL WHEREVER BEES MAY BE FOUND.

General Precautions

  • Listen for buzzing indicating a nest or swarm of bees.
  • Use care when entering sheds or outbuildings where bees may nest.
  • Examine work area before using lawn mowers, weed cutters, and other power equipment.
  • Examine areas before tying up or penning pets or livestock.
  • Be alert when participating in all outdoor sports and activities.
  • Don't disturb a nest or swarm--contact a pest control company or an emergency response organization.
  • Teach children to be cautious and respectful of ALL bees.
  • Check with a doctor about bee sting kits and procedures if sensitive to bee stings.
  • Develop a safety plan for your home and yard.
  • Organize a meeting to inform neighbors about the Africanized honey bees to help increase neighborhood safety.

Bee-Proofing Your Home

  • Remove possible nesting sites around home and yard
  • Inspect outside walls and eaves of home and outbuildings
  • Seal openings larger than 1/8" in walls, around chimneys and plumbing
  • Install fine screens (1/8" hardware cloth) over tops of rain spouts, vents and openings in water meter/utility boxes
  • From spring to fall check once or twice a week for bees entering or leaving the same area of your home or yard

As a general rule, stay away from ALL honey bee swarms and colonies. If bees are encountered, get away quickly. While running away, try to protect face and eyes as much as possible. Take shelter in a car or building. Water or thick brush does not offer enough protection. Do not stand and swat at bees; rapid motions will cause them to strike.

What To Do If Stung

  • Go quickly to a safe area.
  • Remove stinger as soon as possible.
  • Don't squeeze stinger; pressure will release more venom.
  • Scrape stinger out with fingernail, knife blade or credit card.
  • Wash sting area with soap and water like any other wound.
  • Apply ice pack for a few minutes to relieve pain and swelling.
  • Seek medical attention if breathing is troubled, if stung numerous times or if allergic to bee stings

The above is from the County of Los Angeles pamphlet Bee Alert: Africanized Honey Bee Facts. The pamphlet was prepared by the University of California Cooperative Extension, Agriculture & Natural Resources.

Also see the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner's web page on Africanized Honey Bees (AHB).


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