European vs. African Honey Bees

Bees. They’re fascinating insects that feed on the nectar and pollen of flowers. The bees then take the ingredients to their hives to make the honey in order to feed the colony. Colonies includes anywhere from 10,000 to 60,000 bees.

Where we live, there are two prominent species of honey bees – the European honey bee and the African honey bee (also known as the killer bee). Sometimes making the distinction between these two bees is difficult but they do have a handful of differences – especially when they react to being disturbed.

Let’s get to know these two honey bees a little better!

But what do they have in common?
  • European and Africanized honeybees can only sting once and will die shortly afterward.
  • The pain from their stings typically last around ten minutes and have a mild pain index.
  • The venom of the Africanized honeybee is no more potent than that of a European honeybee.
  • The two bees practically look the same. The Africanized Honeybee is about 10% smaller than the European honeybee.
What happens when their hives are disturbed?

Distributing a beehive nest is never a pleasant experience as it will likely end with someone being stung once or multiple times. Their reactions to disturbance are very different.

European honeybees may send out 10 to 20 guard bees in response and they will follow you for about 20 feet. These honey bees typically become calm within one to two hours. Expect about 10-20 stings.

Africanized honey bees may send out several hundred guard bees in response to disturbances and will follow you for about 120 feet. Once these bees are agitated, they become defensive for days. With these “killer” bees, you can expect to be stung around 100 to 1,000 times. (Fun fact: these bees get their nickname “killer” bee because they will aggressively chase you, for about a quarter of a mile, with intent to sting).

Tips to avoid getting stung by a honey bee:
  1. Trim the vegetation near your home – thick vegetation may provide nesting places for them.
  2. Keep your garbage sealed in their containers and thoroughly rinse soda cans and other containers before placing them in recycling or garbage.
  3. DON’T leave sweet drinks or meats outside or in accessible areas. Serve clear cups so you can easily spot an insect before taking a sip. Keep your food covered in outdoor areas and be sure to remove leftovers when you’re finished.
  4. Remember, DEET and other repellents are not effective against bees, wasps or hornets.
  5. DON’T swat at stinging insects as it may provoke them.
  6. If you suspect an infestation or a nest, contact a licensed pest professional to safely remove it. DON’T try to do it yourself.

Our Team Members at Massey Services understand the importance of pollinators, like honeybees. Our services and the materials we use align with our mission of being environmentally responsible.

Bee stings can be a very serious health issue. When bees become a pest, Massey Services – where possible – partners with beekeepers to relocate feral hives.