Discover the Invasive Bee Buzzing Around Texas

bees making honey
© Goncharov Taras/Shutterstock.com

Written by Niccoy Walker

Updated: May 14, 2023

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Bees pollinate billions of dollars’ worth of crops annually across the United States. Humans need bees to help us grow food and sustain life. So, what does it mean when a bee becomes invasive? Non-native bees are considered invasive when they threaten wild native bee populations, pollinate invasive weeds, damage structures, and negatively affect the pollination of native plants. Some invasive bees can also be dangerous to humans. Discover the invasive bee buzzing around Texas, including how it got there and how dangerous it is.

Types of Bees in Texas

Bumblebee, bombus terrestris

Texas has six native bees, including the

bumblebee

, carpenter bee, squash bee, leafcutter bee, sweat bee, and mason bee.

©Ant Cooper/Shutterstock.com

Texas has six types of native bees:

Each bee type has different species. And there are numerous non-native bee species in the state. Overall, Texas has more than 800 bees identified within its borders.

What Bee is Invasive to Texas?

Africanized honeybee

Africanized honey bees are known for their aggressive behavior and will chase away anything that gets too close to their hive.

©aeiddam0853578919/Shutterstock.com

The Africanized honey bee is invasive to Texas. They have been in the state since the early 1990s. But you may not have noticed because they look very similar to European honeybees. In fact, Africanized honey bees are hybrids of European honeybees and African honeybees.

Africanized honey bees are almost identical to European honeybees, except they are slightly smaller. But only microscopically. They also have the same venom.

However, their behavior is very different from the docile European honeybee. They are known for their aggressive behavior and will chase away anything that gets too close to their hive.

Brazilian entomologists created the Africanized honey bee because the European species didn’t have a long enough lifespan to meet the demands for increased honey production.

How Did Africanized Bees Get to Texas?

Killer bees also known as Africanized bees

Africanized honey bees are extremely defensive and readily swarm anyone that gets close to their hive, often chasing them for long distances.

©Pamela Au/Shutterstock.com

The entomologists responsible for creating the Africanized honey bee accidentally released dozens of queens in 1957. The hybrids reproduced with naturalized European bees, and their populations slowly made their way from Brazil to Central America, eventually finding their way into Mexico. By 1990, the first Africanized bees were spotted in the southern tip of Texas. They continued a natural northern migration, inhabiting 163 counties (out of 254) until 2006. As of today, they are still prevalent in the state.

Are Africanized Honey Bees Dangerous?

While the sting of the Africanized honey bee is no more potent than its European counterpart, these hybrids can deliver many stings within a short amount of time. European bees are known for their more gentle and relaxed behavior, while Africanized bees are very aggressive. They are extremely defensive and readily swarm anyone that gets close to their hive, often chasing them for long distances. And anything can set them off, including vibration (lawnmowers, tractors, etc.), excited animals, loud noises, and any activity within proximity. 

Death from killer bees is rare, but it does happen. Their venom may not be different, but their numbers are. A large swarm can employ thousands of stings within mere minutes, which can overload the kidneys and lead to kidney failure.

The best way to escape a hive of killer bees is to cover your head and face and seek shelter inside a house or car immediately. You could also carry netting with you, especially when hiking. Draping the netting over your body can prevent numerous stings.

huge beehive

Africanized bees force domesticated bees from their hives, are less likely to store honey, and will quickly abandon hives.

©Nandalal Sarkar/Shutterstock.com

Are Africanized Honey Bees Still a Problem in Texas?

Africanized bees are still prominent in the Southwest and Southeast, including Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Louisiana, California, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, and Tennessee. They are not expected to make their way further norther because they don’t handle cold temperatures well.

These invasive bees are hybrids, which means they are very difficult to control. For now, management of their colonies is not practiced. Most methods used to get rid of Africanized bees would ultimately harm European honeybees, including the use of pesticides. Africanized bees have a stronger tolerance to pesticides than the European species.

These hybrids continue to cause problems. Not only are they dangerous to humans and pets, but they force domesticated bees from their hives, are less likely to store honey, and will quickly abandon hives. Their presence can be very damaging to the honey industry.


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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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