Swarm of Bees



After completing this section students should be able to:

Terms: Killer bee, Brazilian bees, domestic honey bee, Multivariate analysis, Isozyme, Winter cluster, swarming, absconding, venom chemistry, honey production, smoker.

Killer Bees - Brazilian Honey Bees

    1. Origin. Brazilian or African honey bees. African bees brought to Brazil.

    2. Current distribution and movement.

    3. Characteristics of the bees.

        a. Color.

            • Highly variable--yellow to black in same colony.

            • Size. Generally smaller than European bees.

    4. Identification.

        a. Combination of characters needed.

            • Daly's multilvariate analysis.

            • Izozyme studies.

    5. Individual development.

        a. Takes one day less than European bees, for workers, not reproductives.

    6. Colony development.

        a. Growth rapid, result of higher numbers of eggs produced?

    7. Behavior.

        a. No winter cluster formed--tropical bees.

        b. General activity.

            • More excitable and active than European bees.

            • More "nervous" in all activities.

    8. Production. Generally thought Brazilian bees more productive.

    9. Absconding. Entire colony leaves hive. More frequent for Brazilian
        bees than European bees.

  10. Swarming. More often? or just more reproductive.

  11. Stinging.

        a. Best known characteristic.

            • Aggressive.

            • "Attack" and kill animals.

            • No difference in sting severity.

            • No difference in venom chemistry.

            • Much more easily disturbed.

            • Ability to communicate alarms within colonies and between colonies.

            • Capacity to respond with massive, persistent attacks.

                  a) TIME to first sting from colony and number of stings in 60 seconds.

                          Brazilians = 14 secs -- 34.9 stings.

                          Caucasians = 229 secs -- 1.4 stings.

                  b) Pursue intruder further.

                          Brazilians = 160.2 m.

                          Italians = 21.5 m.

                  c) Longer to quiet down.

                          Brazilians = 28.2 minutes.

                          Italians = 2.9 minutes.

  12. Impact on beekeeping in Brazil.

        a. More production, fewer colonies.

        b. Beekeepers like the bees.

        c. Beekeepers move out of town, colonies in smaller apiaries.

        d. More space between colonies.

        e. Use of large smokers.

        f. Use of protective clothing.

        g. Few hobby beekeepers.

        h. More productive bees.


  1. Where did "Killer bees" evolve? Why are they so aggressive?

  2. How do you distinguish between a killer bee and a regular honey bee?

  3. What will eventually limit the movement of the Killer bee to the northern U.S.?

  4. How does venom of the killer bee differ from that of the domestic honey bee?

  5. How many stings from a killer bee does it take to equal the venom delivered in a rattlesnake bite?

  6. Are killer bee attacks to humans generally fatal? What age groups are most often killed?

  7. How do killer bee colonies reproduce? What is "absconding"? How does it differ from "Swarming"?

  8. When a killer bee colony swarms it is much less aggressive than at other times. Why is this the case?

  9. How have beekeepers in Mexico dealt with the invasion of the killer bees?

  10. How were the killer bees controlled in the movie "The Savage Bee"?

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