Honey bees get their common name from the honey they make using the nectar of flowers. They are social insects found all over the world and are extremely beneficial because of their role in pollination. In the U.S. alone, honey bees pollinate more than 100 crops. The two most commonly encountered kinds of honey bees in the United States are the common and rather docile European honey bee and the much more aggressive Africanized honey bee. Keep reading if you’d like to learn more, including information on honey bee management, treatment, and control.
Adult workers range in length from about 1/2 to 5/8 inches. Honey bees are usually orangish brown in color to sometimes black, and have an enlarged rear portion of the abdomen that is broadly banded with orange and brown, or brown and black. Their bodies are mostly covered with pale hairs, which are most dense on their thorax. Honey bees have 6 legs, as well as a visible barbed stinger. Queen honey bees are slightly larger, about 5/8 to 3/4 inches long, and have a pointed abdomen that extends well beyond the tips of their wings, with a smooth stinger present. Male honey bees, or drones, are about 5/8 inches long, and do not have a stinger. Africanized honey bees look just like domestic bees except for being slightly smaller. A specialist is required to identify specimens by genetics or measurements.
If you live in an area known to have Africanized honey bees or are within 100 miles of such an area, it is not advisable to approach a colony, hive, or swarm of honey bees without first putting on a complete bee suit. Schools and day-care facilities should conduct daily surveillance, have an action plan in place, and educate their students and faculty.
Anyone attacked should run quickly until they reach shelter such as a vehicle or building, and then begin to remove any stingers. If someone else is observed being attacked, advise them to run to shelter, but don’t go assist unless properly suited-up, as you will also be attacked. Be sure to call 911 for rescue help if necessary as well. For European honey bee swarmers in the yard, contact the cooperative extension service or call a local beekeeper or apiculture supply shop for beekeepers interested in removing swarms.
Managing honey bees and preventing them from foraging and nesting around the home is advised, especially if small children or allergic people are present. Discouragement consists of the removal or preventing access to any sugar, food, or water which may be attractive to bees, such as soda cans, flowers, water dishes, etc. It’s also recommended that flowering vegetation be located away from doorways, decks, sidewalks, mailboxes, and other areas frequented by people. Also, lawns should be kept free of white clover and flowering seeds.
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