Africanization of Arizona’s European Honey Bees

The Africanized bee arrived in Southern Arizona in 1993 after a long northward migration from Brazil. The Africanized Honey Bee is a hybrid of the Tanzanian Honey Bee from Africa and the European Honey Bee.

The Migration of Africanized Bees from South America

The Migration of Africanized Bees into the U.S.

There are two methods by which the Africanized bee has spread across South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Southern United States:

  1. European Queens mate with Africanized drones (male honey bees) flying in the area where the virgin queen is taking her mating flight. This results in Africanization of all her offspring (babies).
  2. Africanized Honey Bees sneaking into and taking over European Honey Bee Colonies.

Africanized Bees in Phoenix & Tucson

In the Phoenix and Tucson areas, as the farm land was replaced by housing, beekeepers no longer had locations in which to run apiaries of European bees. With the loss of these apiaries (bee yards), there were fewer and fewer European swarms coming from beekeepers’ boxes to provide a supply of European bees. Simultaneously, new Queens from the wild European colonies existing around the cities and deserts mated with Africanized drones and colonies headed by these queens quickly became Africanized.

Over more than 20 years of this transition from European to Africanized Honey Bees, virtually all unmanaged (wild) honeybees in the southern half of Arizona have become Africanized. There are only two methods to identify Africanized bees, microscopic measurement of bee body parts and DNA testing. Therefore, all honey bees in the southern half of Arizona should be assumed to be Africanized.

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