The Africanized Honey Bee is actually a variety of honeybee derived by hybridization from African honeybees naturalized in the western hemisphere. Because they are highly defensive and will attack perceived intruders more readily than the common European honeybee, they are also known by the popular name of "killer bees."
Brazilian scientists imported African honeybee queens in the 1950's in order to breed a honeybee for use in tropical climates. Some swarms escaped into the wild. Because they were highly adapted for tropical survival and had no natural competitors, they thrived and spread rapidly through South America, extending their range by as much as 500 km (300 mi) per year. By the 1980s, Africanized honeybees had reached Central America and soon colonized Mexico. In 1990, the first swarm was found in the United States. The bees spread from Texas to New Mexico and Arizona and then into California by 1994.
The bees reached an apparent climatic limit to their southern range in the middle of Argentina, and their range is expected to be similarly limited to the southern and coastal states in the United States. They have hybridized to some extent with resident wild and hive populations of European honeybees. However, many of the basic African honeybee traits remain, including rapid population growth, frequent swarming, minimal hoarding of honey, the ability to survive on sparse supplies of pollen and nectar, and a highly defensive nature.
Africanized honeybees are more difficult to manage than European honeybees and produce less honey. The businesses of many beekeepers in Latin American countries have failed as a result of Africanization of the native hives. Africanized honey bees are not expected to have the same impact in the United States because of advanced beekeeping technology and climatic limitations on the spread of the species. Africanization of beehives can be prevented by the annual introduction of new European queens to each colony. Africanized...
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