Africanized & European Honeybee – What’s the Difference?

Most southern states are used to seeing the buzzing, stinging honeybees hopping in flower beds and gardens in the summer months. Especially, if an unusual amount of rainfall has struck the area in the winter months since the rain water contributes to more blooming flower. Consequently, more bees will be produced to collect the nectar and pollen from the abundance of flowers.

As the bees continue to pollinate in gardens nearby human activity throughout the summer, one may wonder how the bee attack victims they hear on the top news stories are getting stung by hundreds of bees. While all honeybees are capable of stinging and have the same potency in their venom, the European Honeybee (EHB) is not as aggressive as the African Honeybee (AHB) and will usually no bother humans unless they feel extremely threatened or agitated. Furthermore, the EHB will attack in smaller groups than the AHB.

The History of Honeybees

Initially, European honeybees were the only honeybees in the U.S. Spanish explorers brought these bees to the U.S. for their plentiful honey production. The honey was used as a food source and means of income. wildflower seeds

The African honeybee was brought to Brazil in 1950 in efforts to create a surplus in honey supply. The African bees escaped and travelled north and mated with the European honeybees. So, the current Africanized honey bee is a hybrid of the two honeybees. Africanized honeybees were introduced to the U.S. in the 1990 and reached San Diego County in 1999. 2005 is the last time California tracked the breeding of the aggressive bees but reports have shown that the bees have moved much further north of San Diego and into East County.

The Difference

European Honey bee

The nature of the European honeybee is docile and gentle and may only send out 10-20 bees to a threat or disturbance 20 feet away. The stings could range from 10-20 and they will usually become calm again after 1-2 hours.

They will rarely swarm throughout the year but will do so in a large group. They will generally swarm together to find areas to build a new nest and colony. Nests will typically be in cavities or voids that are protected and above ground.

Africanized Honey bee

An African honeybee is protective of its hive and will become very aggressive if provoked resulting in several hundred bees alerted to defend their colony. The sting amounts could be as many as 6-10 times as much as the EHB. The bees will remain in aggressive mode for several days.

Their colonies will swarm often but in much smaller groups than EHB’s. They will abscond and relocate nests often. It is difficult to detect a AHB hive since they nest in small groups and usually in small underground cavities.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *