Genetic laboratory studies are usually needed to distinguish a European honeybee from an Africanized honeybee. The more aggressive African bee is a bit smaller than common honeybees but are otherwise identical in appearance.
Where to find them:
Historically speaking, Africanized bees (labelled as killer bees) are descendants of a strain of African bees that migrated from Brazil in the 1950s and headed north over time. As the story goes, the African bees accidentally escaped from Brazilian beekeepers – and soon after their new found freedom they began to overtake European honeybee colonies. The aggressive African bees soon established colonies in South and Central America and today they can be found in areas of North America such as Southern California and Texas.
Killer bees become enraged when their hives are disturbed. As soon as one bee stings its victim, a scent (that smells like bananas) is released into the air. This scented alarm causes the other bees to become agitated and sting.
The venom of the Africanized bee is not more dangerous than that of other bees but the insect acquires its bad reputation from its aggressive nature. Africanized bees are easily agitated and sting in greater numbers causing more injury. If a person is attacked by killer bees they are more likely to be stung anywhere from one dozen to hundreds of times. If the person suffers an allergic reaction, then the attack can be fatal and even if the victim does not have allergies and receives multiple stings, the attack can still be life threatening.
A very aggressive killer bee colony may attack if a threat lies within 30 metres of their colony. If a human or animal is attacked they may be pursued for up to 1.2 kilometres.
Like the honeybee, the killer bee dies when it stings. During the attack, the tiny barbs on the stinger get stuck in the victim’s skin. Afterwards, as the bee attempts to fly away, its abdomen may become torn resulting in its death.