Killer Bees Invade Texas

Is it "media-hype" or just simple honey bees that occasionally express some attitude? There is truth to both since most of the time the ”killer bees", correctly called Africanized Honey Bees(AHB), appear and act no different than our well known domestic honey bees. However, there have been multiple deaths and numerous massive stinging cases by AHB since they arrived in south Texas in 1990. These types of stinging incidents were virtually unheard of in the US prior to their arrival.

+Background
African Honey Bees were shipped from Africa to South America for research studies in 1957. Some colonies escaped and mixed with the local domestic honey bees and thus their name Africanized Honey Bees. They expanded their northward range into Central America then Mexico and into the US via the Rio Grande Valley area of south Texas. Later, their presence is known in states west of Texas bordering Mexico and southern Nevada. AHB have been identified in most of Texas counties except areas in north and east Texas. However, natural range expansion and transport via truck and railroad will impact essentially all of Texas. Although you can kill individual bees and colonies, no method has effectively prevented their spread so we must learn to live with and deal with the AHB.
+Facts and Dispelling Myths
Now, let's learn more about the AHB:

  • - They are honey bees and look just like them.
  • - When encountered in the yard or field, single bees, even africanized, are not more aggressive.
  • - If stung, the venom is not more toxic or harmful than the sting of our more familiar domestic honey bees.
  • - The main risk of AHB is if you disturb the bee hive, intentional or not, within seconds thousands of bees are attacking anything alive in the area. This is a dangerous situation.
  • - The most common unintentional disturbance of AHB hives is operating machinery, like lawnmowers, tractors and weed eaters near the hive.
+How to prevent the unexpected attack of the 'killer bees'
  • - Increase awareness around the home and other active areas outdoors for bees coming and going from an area, especially before operating machinery.
  • - Repair any holes or defects in brick mortar or fences and remove unused containers, debris, tires and other items that could be the new home for a bee hive.
  • - If you locate a hive, call an exterminator or bee professional for removal.
+Are you allergic to bee stings?
  • - Prevention information (above) is even more important!
  • - Medications should be available as recommended by your doctor.
  • - A consultation with a Board Certified Allergy Immunology specialist should be strongly considered. Honey bee venom allergy injections are very effective and should be discussed to determine whether this type of treatment is appropriate for you.
+What to do if you're attacked
It's not a movie, it’s the real thing! You are being attacked by thousands of angry bees and overwhelmed by the situation you are in, what do you do?

  • - RUN, don’t stay there and swat at them or try to hide or jump in water, run into an enclosure, a house, vehicle or other. Once inside, the bees become somewhat disoriented and call off the attack. They will not attack others inside so you don’t need to be concerned about others in the house or car. If there are no enclosures, keep running away from the area and less and less bees will follow.
  • - Once you are safe from additional stings, scrape off the stingers quickly with your fingernails or a blunt item. Do not pinch or squeeze the stinger as you will actually inject more venom.
  • - Seek medical attention due to the risk of an immediate, slow or delayed reaction which can be severe or possibly life threatening.
  • - If someone else is being attacked, call for them to run but if not able, crawl away from the hive.
  • - Do not attempt unprotected rescue. Call 911 or other emergency number for appropriate assistance.
  • - If a pet is fenced or restrained, safely and quickly open a gate or unrestrain the pet.

Remember: "Killer bees" or Africanized Honey Bees are here to stay, but some common sense and simple knowledge can prevent, or limit the extent of attacks so you don' t become the next victim!

The Texas Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Society (TAAIS) is a group of more than 220 board-certified Allergists/Immunologists in Texas.

An Allergist/Immunologist is a physician, usually an Internist or Pediatrician, who has had special training and experience in the field of Allergy and Immunology and who is considered to be an expert in the diagnosis and management of immune system disorders such as asthma, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), eczema, urticaria (hives), drug reactions, food allergies, immune deficiencies, and all general aspects of anaphylaxis.

A Board Certified Allergist/Immunologist is a physician who has passed the certifying examination of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. A list of Board Certified Allergists can be found here. Those with “ABAI” under Board Certification are Board Certified Allergists/Immunologist.