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Africanized bee

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Africanized bee
Africanized bee on flower.jpg
Scientific Classification
Species

Hybrid

U.S. Invasion by Year
Africanized bee map.jpg

The Africanized bee is a hybrid between African honey bees from Brazil and imported European bees. These bees have earned their nickname of being a "killer" bee because of their aggressive and defensive behavior. Movies have given a whole new meaning to the Africanized hybrid as looking to kill. [1] For a person to actually be killed by the Africanized bee, they would have to be stung hundreds of times and would probably have some sort of allergic reaction. On average, a person can handle 10 stings for every pound of body weight. Thus, even though a child could die if stung 500 times, an adult could handle more than twice that amount. There has only been one recorded killing by bees and the chances of this happening are very slim.[2]

Anatomy

When a bee stings the venom sac, and part of the digestive system, is pulled out with the stinger.

The Africanized honey bee primarily has the same body structure as any other honey bee, but they are a bit smaller in size. Like all other Arthropods, the honey bee has a head, thorax, and abdomen. The head consists of two compound eyes containing 3000-5000 ommatidia, which are visual processing units. These eyes are best suited in detecting color, specifically yellow, blue, white, and black. On the top of their heads are ocelli, simple eyes, that detect light intensity. They also have a pair of antennae that are used in detecting odor, taste, movement in the air, and temperature. [3]

The thorax is the section of the body where the legs and wings are attached. On the end of all six legs there are tarsi, which tastes the things it touches, and claws and arolia (pad between the claws). The claws and arolia are used to move around on surfaces and to land when flying. The first pair of legs, closest to the head, are used for cleaning the antennae. The second pair are specialized to remove the pollen that is brought into the hive. The third pair have a corbicula (pollen basket) that is used to transport pollen to the colony's hive. In contrast, on top/sides of the thorax there are two pairs of wings used for movement and transportation in the air. Of the two, the pair closest to the head is larger in size than the pair towards the back.[4]

The abdomen consists of seven segments that are striped yellow and black. On the underside of the abdomen are glands that secrete wax. These are used to make the hive. The famous part of the bees' abdomen that most people first recognize when coming across a bee is the stinger. Female bees, the queens and sterile workers, are the only ones that have this fascinating appendage. Attached to the stinger is the venom bulb. When a bee stings, the venom bulb detaches from the body with the stinger and continues to pulsate and pump venom into the victim for some time after. The stinger itself is made up of two serrated rods on each side. This rod is injected into the victim and is pushed through by a muscle inside of the bees' abdomen. When a worker stings not only are the stinger and venom bulb left behind, but most times part of the digestive tract is also left attached to the sac. This happens because even though the bee will try and pull free, the jagged sides of the rods will stay in place, thus tearing off of the abdomen. [5] Since the abdomen is torn open the bee will die soon after a sting.[6]

Reproduction

The Africanized honey bee reproduces the same as any other honey bee, but more frequently and at a faster rate. The eggs hatch quicker than a regular bee; three days as opposed to over one week. The larva are even larger in size than an average bee. Normally the number of drones for a European honey bee hive would be regulated, but these are not. Drones are produced frequently and in large numbers. [7]

During "drone congregations" the Africanized honey bee drones wait for a virgin queen to make an appearance for mating. Because the bee is already a hybrid, the queen may or may not be Africanized or not. The hybrid drones' aggressive behavior and large quantities provide a more efficient mating opportunity with the queen over the European, average, honey bee. When these "drone congregations" occur, the female will leave for her hive with as much sperm to last a life-time. Another way would be a swarm taking over a European colony and either mating with their queen, or killing the queen and replacing it with their own.[8]

Ecology

These Africanized honey bee hives are being fed artificially because of the dry period this season.

The hybrid of the Africanized bees originated from Africa. They have immigrated from Brazil all the way to the southern United States.[9] These bees can build a hive in many places around homes. These places include: mail boxes, empty soda cans, holes in the ground or tree limbs, old tires, abandoned structures, junk piles, house eaves, metal utility poles, and even upside down flower pots. In these places they create a home where they could survive for months if trapped. The amount of saved honey contained in these hives could provide them with food until they could escape, unless they become dehydrated. [10] These particular hybrid of bees live in small colonies. They seem to have picked up the fact that many small colonies are easier to defend against predators, rather than few large ones. [11] They move in swarms much more frequently than a regular honey bee. They may pick up and swarm from six weeks. A hive may not travel in a swarm together either, they may split up into two or more swarms. [12] Since they reproduce at a faster rate than regular bees, they are able to take several drones and workers and a queen bee away from a hive to swarm and create a new, separate colony. Because they swarm so frequently, it is vital that humans be aware of their surroundings and be sure to stay clear of them. They have a nasty attitude and are very defensive of their hives and colonies. They will attack whenever they feel threatened. [13]

The Africanized bee is, although dangerous, very helpful to the human economy. Their pollination of crops is a big part of human and animal diets. Their honey production is also used as a major human resource. They help provide one-third of people's everyday food source. [14]

Caution

Bees in general are insects that people should be extremely cautious around. But when dealing with the Africanized bee, people should be even more wary. These bees are very defensive of their hives and won't second guess attacking if they feel threatened. [15] If a person comes across a nest of bees it is safe to stay approximately 100 feet away so as not to disturb them in any way. [16] If they do get agitated, they will attack as a swarm. They could chase down a potential threat for about a quarter of a mile. One of the main misconceptions of the Africanized honey bee is that the venom is either more potent or there's more injected because of their nickname the "killer" bee, but this is not true. The venom is the same as any other bee sting, in fact, because of the smaller body structure of the Africanized bee the amount injected is less than that of an average honey bee. If or when a person is stung though, it is important that they do not try and pinch or squeeze the stinger out. If they do this then they are only making it worse by injecting even more venom into their bodies. It would be more effective if they scrape it out or push it out by, maybe, using a credit card or finger nail. [17]

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References