In Brazil in 1950, to try to increase honey production, the sturdier but aggressive African honeybees were crossbred with less aggressive European honeybees. When a research assistant accidentally released 26 African queen bees in 1957, they produced new hybrid populations with Brazilian wild bees. They spread northward for years, arriving in Arizona in 1993. After gradually overtaking Arizona’s wild honeybee population, today 99 percent of all wild Arizona honeybees are considered Africanized bees.

Aggressively pursue their victims

Like European honeybees, Africanized honeybees can only sting once, but they usually attack in much greater numbers - delivering 10 times as many stings - are disturbed more easily and known to pursue a perceived threat for more than one-quarter mile.

Pollinating and “requeening”

Native pollinators are better suited for pollinating our native plant species and some crops. “Requeening” Africanized hives to make them less aggressive can be costly and difficult, negatively impacting the Arizona agriculture industry.

Precautions & Control

Africanized honeybees aren’t dangerous while pollinating. When they’re balled up on trees, walls, or flying in and out of structures or trees, however, avoid the area and call professionals. If attacked, cover your head and face and run in a straight line to a car or building. Don’t swat them, run toward other people or animals, or jump into a pool or other body of water. Africanized honeybees will wait above the water for you to resurface. If you receive several stings or experience symptoms of allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.

For more information on Africanized bees and Southern Arizona’s native pollinators, visit or call 520-625-2381.

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