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Watch for Africanized Honey Bees. They’re Swarming!

May 30, 2013

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FDACS Divison of Plant Industry

It is swarming season for Africanized honey bees and that means bee removal specialists around the state are busy.

We all depend on managed bees for honey and pollination of our crops. A growing number of us have taken up beekeeping as a hobby. But, in contrast with the gentle European honey bees that populate managed colonies, the Africanized bee, now found across the Florida peninsula south of Ocala, poses some special concerns.

 The Africanized bees have a fearsome reputation for attacking animals and people who have the misfortune to threaten or disturb their homes. This trait that has led to their being branded “killer bees.” People and animals have died from their stings right here in Florida. 

European honey bees (left) and Africanized honey bees (right) can be difficult to distinguish.

European honey bees (left) and Africanized honey bees (right) can be difficult to distinguish.

This is the time of year when colonies split up. Swarms leave the original colony. You may see the swarm clinging to a tree branch, awaiting the return of scouts sent out to locate a new home.  Unlike the more docile European honey bee, the Africanized bee tends to set up housekeeping in places like the walls and ceilings of homes and other buildings, upended flower pots, utility boxes — they’ve even been found in abandoned vehicles.

While they are swarming, however, the bees have no home to defend and are therefore less likely to attack. That does not mean swarms should be ignored. You don’t want them to set up a home to defend on your property!

This article in the Sun Sentinel says one bee removal specialist in South Florida is receiving  between five and 10 calls per week from people with bee colonies on their property.  Our FDACS/DPI Africanized honey bee webpage, contains tips on protecting your property and family as well as a Bee Nest and Swarm Removal Contact List  to help guide you to companies and individuals that are experts in removing nuisance bees.

potentialhivelocationsTo discourage Africanized bees from nesting, beekeepers place managed hives in public parks and on private landsIf Africanized bees come into an area to forage and don’t find adequate food because of managed colonies in the area, they will move on. Beekeepers also requeen their colonies with European honey bees to ensure managed hives do not become infiltrated with Africanized queens.

What’s the difference between European and Africanized honey bees?

It is very difficult to distinguish Africanized honey bees from European honey bees, and the AHB species can only be verified through USDA identification testing, which scientists at FDACS/DPI have been trained to do.  There are important behavioral differences between the two species:

  • Africanizedhoney bees  are more defensive than European honey bees.
  • They defend their nests with less provocation, in greater numbers and for longer distances.
  • AHB swarm as many as 16 times per year. EHB only swarm once or twice per year.
  • AHB are not selective of nesting sites and will quickly inhabit empty spaces, holes or cavities. EHB are more selective and prefer drier sites three to four feet above ground.

Anyone who thinks they have seen a swarm or may be hosting a colony of bees should call the FDACS/DPI Helpline, 1-888-397-1517. Click here to view a fact sheet on Africanized honey bees.

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African bees are an invasive species that is relatively new to Florida. Wondering how they  found their way here? We’ll tell you in our next post.

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2 Responses to “Watch for Africanized Honey Bees. They’re Swarming!”


  1. […] began swarming, posing a danger to residents of the Florida peninsula who live south of Ocala. We summarized the dangers the imported bees pose to humans, domestic animals and property and emphasized the measures that […]


  2. […] Watch for Africanized Honey Bees. They’re Swarming! […]


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