Africanized Bees in the U.S.; December 1993; Scientific American Magazine; by Thomas E. Rinderer, Benjamin P. Oldroyd and Walter S. Sheppard; 7 Page(s)
The long-anticipated announcement came in October 1990. Africanized honeybees, more popularly known as killer bees (because of sensationalized accounts of their attacks on people and animals), had finally crossed the Mexican border into the U.S. Less than 35 years after members of a honeybee subspecies living in Africa (Apis mellifera scutellata) were released outside Sao Paulo, Brazil, their descendants--the Africanized bees--had migrated as far north as southern Texas. Today the bees occupy a range of about 20 million square kilometers, encompassing much of South America and virtually all of Central America. And their spread continues. They reached Arizona in 1993 and are expected to colonize parts of the southern U.S. before being stopped by climatic limits, probably by the year 2000.
Their arrival in the U.S. raises many questions. How will the newcomers affect public health and the beekeeping industry? Why were African bees brought to the Americas in the first place? What allowed their progeny to be so extraordinarily successful? And, most important, can anything be done to minimize the impact of settlement by Africanized bees in the U.S.? We and others have devoted a great deal of study to this last question. That work, particularly research exploring the genetic makeup of the insects heading for the U.S., offers hope that efforts to control mating between Africanized honeybees and honeybees common in North American apiaries can be of considerable value.