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L.A. County Online
Africanized Honey Bee(AHB)
Last Updated:07/02

Africanized Honey Bee information:

Red Imported Fire Ant
Graphic
AHB drawing courtesy of
Craig Kysar, Sherman Oaks, CA

TOP OF PAGEWhat is Africanized Honey Bee (AHB)?

The Africanized Honey Bee is a hybrid of one of the several European Honey Bee subspecies (Apis mellifera mellifera, A.m.carnica, A.m.caucasia, or A.m.linguica) and the African Honey Bee (Apis mellifera scutellata). The hybrid is virtually indistinguishable in the field from the common honey bee. The AHB will set up colonies in all the same areas as the European Honey Bee (EHB) and will also nest close to or in the ground. The most noticeable difference between the two types of bees is that AHB is extremely aggressive in defense of the colony. At any perceived threat, bees can "swarm" out of the colony and attack, stinging in large numbers, sometimes in the hundreds.


TOP OF PAGE Why is AHB a problem?

The way the AHB defends its nest is the main problem. AHB will respond to any threat to their nest and it does not take much for them to feel threatened. A person walking within 50 feet of a colony can trigger an attack. Operating power tools or power lawn equipment can trigger an attack from as far away as 100 feet. The AHB will respond in higher numbers than the EHB and more bees will sting the victim. AHB will chase a victim 1/4 to 1/2 mile and will remain agitated for an hour or more after an attack. This could cause a problem for someone arriving after an attack and walking into the areas where the agitated bees are. Sting for sting, the AHB is virtually identical to the EHB. The fact that more of them will sting a victim makes them more dangerous. Some people are allergic to bee stings. If you start swelling or have trouble breathing, see a doctor. If you are stung many times, see a doctor whether or not you have symptoms.


TOP OF PAGE Where in Los Angeles County can AHB be found?

We declared Los Angeles completely colonized in April 1999. This means that we would not be surprised to find AHB anywhere in the county. Once an area is colonized, it usually takes 2-3 years until they are widespread enough to be found throughout the area. Realistically, it will not be commonly found above 3000 feet, especially over winter. In the Antelope Valley we expect it to move in seasonally when food and water are available. It will probably not be commonly found in the Antelope Valley as a year-round resident.


TOP OF PAGE What do I do about AHB?

SOMEONE IS ATTACKED- Call 911.


A SWARM/NEST OF BEES ON OR IN A STRUCTURE:

- Look in your local Yellow Pages under "Pest Control" and call a licensed Pest Control Operator. We recommend that you DO NOT attempt to kill or remove the bees yourself.

A SWARM/NEST OF BEES NOT ON OR IN A STRUCTURE:

Some cities and Vector Control Districts within Los Angeles provide non-structural bee control at no charge to the property.

Enter your Zip Code to find out whether bee services are available in your area and who to call.

TOP OF PAGE How can I avoid problems with AHB /what if I have other questions?

To prevent AHB, do "bee-proofing" around your property. This involves sealing up all cracks and holes larger than 1/8 inch that lead into a wall void, attic or subarea. This can be done with stucco patch, caulking, and screen. Caulking now comes in various colors so you don't have a bright white stripe where the crack was. Most vent screens are normally 1/4 inch mesh. You can purchase 1/8 inch mesh hardware cloth, cut pieces to size and fit them in behind the existing vent screens. This does not involve major renovation of your vents.

Remove or eliminate junk piles, upturned pots, old bee equipment, or any place that could offer a nice, sheltered place for bees to set up housekeeping, become more aware of your surroundings and watch for bee activity around your property. If you spot some on your neighbor's property, let them know. For additional information or our Speakers Bureau, call the AHB Hotline: 1-800-BEE WARY (1-800-233-9279)


TOP OF PAGE What do I do if attacked? Do's and Don'ts.

During an attack:

  • Do run. Run away as fast as possible. Get into a building or vehicle if you can.
  • Do try to cover your face and head as you run.
  • Do call 911.
  • Do start removing stingers from your skin once you are away from the bees. You can remove them by scraping, pulling, or using sticky tape. Do not leave the stingers in any longer than necessary, as they will continue to pump venom.
  • Don't stop to remove stingers until you are safely away from the attacking bees.
  • Don't jump into water. This only works in cartoons. The bees will see you and wait for you to come up for air.
  • Don't panic.

TOP OF PAGE How do the experts tell AHB from other bees?

At the local level, a Fast Africanized Bee Identification System (FABIS) test can be performed. Starting with a sample of 50 to 100 bees, 10 bees are randomly sorted. The right wing is removed from each and mounted on microscope slides, and the average wing length is calculated. If the average wing length is over 9mm, the bees are European Honey Bees. If the average wing length is under 9mm, the bees are suspect Africanized Honey Bees. They are only suspect AHB because there are some Egyptian Honey Bees in the county that are a domesticated bee but are slightly smaller that the EHB. Some EHB are also slightly smaller than usual. The FABIS test is like the TB skin test. If the test is negative, you do not have TB. If the test is positive, you might have TB but need a more sophisticated test to be sure.

If there is a need to know for certain that the sample is AHB or not, e.g., a multiple stinging incident or death, the sample is sent to the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) for further testing. They can perform either a DNA, or complete morphometrics test. The DNA test compares the DNA from the sample to known DNA standards to determine whether the bees are AHB or not. This test can be done on a small sample size but not if the bees were killed with certain pesticides. The chemicals used to kill the bees interfere with the test. Complete morphometrics can be used when the sample is contaminated with pesticides. Complete morphometrics is a series of very precise measurements of various parts of the bees in the sample. Some involve lengths of specific body parts, some involve the angles of wing veins. These measurements are then averaged and compared to a standard. A complete morphometrics test requires a larger sample size than the DNA test. Both tests are quite accurate and are considered the final word in AHB determination.

TOP OF PAGE Links for additional information on AHB