The honey bee species that beekeepers in the US raise for commercial purposes, the European honey bee, is not actually native to North America. This species’ common name gives away its non-native status, as well as its European origin. European honey bee hives were transported to Virginia from Europe back in 1622, and by 1639, European honey bees had established a non-native habitat within wooded areas throughout the northeast. European honey bees eventually spread to Texas during the early 19th century.
European honey bees can obviously inflict medically significant stings, and they can become aggressive toward humans in defense of their colony and queen, but European honey bees do not generally attack humans unless the insects perceive humans as a threat or are provoked. All yellow jacket species in the US are more apt than European honey bees to attack humans, and unlike yellow jackets, bald-faced hornets and paper wasps, European honey bees have a barbed stinger, which prevents the insects from inflicting more than one sting during their lifetime. However, another non-native honey bee species in the US, the Africanized honey bee, is notable for being extremely aggressive toward humans, and these invasive bees cause several deaths in the southern states each year.
Africanized honey bees, which are more commonly known as “killer bees,” invaded Texas during the early 1990s where they interbred with European honey bees. Today, most wild honey bees in Texas have become “Africanized.” Unsurprisingly, Africnaized honey bee attacks occur frequently in Texas. A recent Afircanized honey bee attack in the state saw the bees inflict numerous stings to three related individuals while they had been mourning the loss of a loved one at the Hutto Lutheran Cemetery. During the attack, 91 year old Victor Stern sustained 51 stings, but he later recovered in a local hospital. Stern’s son and grandson were also attacked, but they sustained fewer stings, and were quickly released from the hospital. Later the same day, several Africnaized honey bee nests were found partially buried in the ground along a fence line in the cemetery. Authorities marked this hazardous area with police tape until the hives could be professionally removed.
Have you ever stumbled upon a bee or wasp swarm?