African “Killer Bees” in the Americas

  • Arne Jernelöv


The African bee is a subspecies of the honey bee. Compared to the European cousins, they are more aggressive and less exposed to parasites and diseases as they spend more time preening, and in tropical and subtropical environs, they produce more honey. The “killer bee” was to a large extent a media hype, grossly exaggerating the aggressiveness and danger of the African and Africanized bees as they spread across the Americas after accidental release in Brazil in 1956. Extensive and costly attempts were made to stop their advancement north toward the USA, but in vain.

Since introduction, the African bees have interbred with European ones both spontaneously and through human interference. As a result, the honey bee in the Americas has become genetically more diverse having acquired some African traits. Natural (and human) selection has favored some of those in the tropical and subtropical areas, but reduced their frequency in temperate climates. One can justify both the statement that the Africanized bee has taken over most of the Americas and that it has drowned in the overall honey bee gene pool. Economically, the Africanized bees have had a positive impact, ecologically a negative, but not very strong, one.


African bees Killer bees Invasive Americas Aggressive Honey production Economic effects 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arne Jernelöv
    • 1
  1. 1.Swedish Institute for Future StudiesJarpasSweden

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