Physical Setting
Climate
Adaptations
Tucson Plants
Tucson Animals
External Resources
Physical Setting
Climate
Adaptations
Tucson Plants
Tucson Animals
External Resources

AnimalsVenomous AnimalsArthropodsFishAmphibiansReptilesBirdsMammals

Previous SpeciesNext Species
Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
honey beeDESCRIPTION: L=0.7" (17mm). Yellowish-orange with black bands on abdomen. The Africanized Bee, a subspecies of honey bee from Africa, is almost identical in appearance to the European subspecies of Honey Bee.
NATURAL HISTORY: This is our well-known, domesticated bee introduced from Europe (and now also from Africa). It is very important for pollinating our crops (and other plants), and for producing commercial honey. They are a social insect, forming huge colonies containing mostly the queen and female workers. The workers can communicate the location of food sources to each other using elaborate dances. When Honey Bees sting, their stinger remains in the victim and the bee flies off to its death (this is the only North American stinging insect that does this). Meanwhile, the venom continues to be pumped into the victim. See Bee Biology for more information.

BEE DANCING

Honey Bees have two dances they perform depending on how far away the food source is located.

  • Round Dance: when the food source is close, the bee that found the food flies back to the hive and performs a circular dance to tell the other workers that there is food nearby. A sample of the food is held in the mouth so that the other bees know what type of food it is and so they know when they have found the food source.
  • Waggle Dance: when the food source is far, waggle dancethe bee that found the food flies back to the hive and performs a figure-eight dance that indicates the precise direction and distance to the food source. The distance is indicated by how much time it takes to do one circuit of the dance. The direction is indicated by the direction of the waggle part of the dance (see 1 & 5 in the figure). If the bee waggles upward (like the dance here), then the food source is located in the direction of the sun. If the bee waggles 45 degrees to the right of up, then the food source is 45 degrees to the right of the sun, etc.

AFRICANIZED BEES

Africanized bees are called that because they are a hybrid between African and European honey bees. They were brought to Brazil to try to breed bees that were hardy like the African bees but were relatively docile and produced lots of honey like the European bees. Some of the swarms escaped, and they were able to expand their range into the United States, including Tucson. Africanized Bees (sometimes called "killer bees") are more dangerous than their European counterparts, not because their venom is more toxic (it isn't) but because you are more likely to get more stings. You get more stings because, compared to European honey bees,:

  • They defend their hive from farther away -- the best defense if attacked is to run (usually they will stop after about a half mile) and seek shelter in a house or car.
  • They get agitated faster -- you have less time to realize your mistake and get away
  • More come out at once to defend the hive -- thus you get more potential stingers
  • And they stay agitated longer -- harder to get away

Why, you may be wondering, do Africanized bees show these characteristics? One reason is because docility has been bred into European bees more than African bees. But they were probably more aggressive, even before domestication. Honey Bees commonly build their hives hidden away in tree cavities. This makes it hard for most predators to find bee hives. So, in Europe, the best defense for the bees is to be quiet, and hopefully the predator will pass by without detecting the hive. In Africa, it is a different story. A bird, called the honeyguide, guides predators (including humans) to the bees' hives. So, when a predator is approaching a hive in Africa, very likely it is being guided by the bird, thus will find the hive. Therefore, the best defense for the bees is an all-out attack. They lose a lot of bees (honey bees only sting once, then their stinger is left in the victim, ripping away part of the bee's abdomen, leaving the bee to die), but they might save the hive. What's in it for the bird? Food. The bird can follow the bees and find their hive easily, but they can't break into the wood to get to the hive. The predator they guide does that, and the bird gets the left-overs. This is an excellent example of mutualism, where both species (the bee and the predator) benefit from the association.


Email Me
Site Map
Copyright
Pima Community College