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The ‘Killer Bee’ Hysteria

If you grew up in the 90s, you likely were told to beware of bees, more specifically “killer bees”. This was because in the early 90s, Americans were getting really concerned about the Africanized honeybees making their way to the US. In 1956, Brazilian scientists imported African honeybees to crossbreed them with other honeybees. The goal was to create a honeybee that produced a lot of honey and could handle tropical climates. In 1957, these bees were accidentally released into the wild. Rumors quickly began to swirl about these bees, that they were more venomous, that they are bigger than normal bees, and that their stings are extremely painful. This caused a lot of hysteria, and many feared encountering these foreign bees. This also resulted in the creation of creature features involving bees. You may have heard of The Swarm (1978) or The Bees (1978).

The reality is that these bees are nowhere near as dangerous as they are made out to be. For starters, their venom is no deadlier than their European counterparts. As for their aggression levels, it is more so that they are more defensive, what that means is that when disturbed they protect their hive more fiercely. They also send out more bees when disturbed. They are also a little bit smaller than European honeybees, though only those in etymology can easily spot the difference. Essentially, while these bees are more defensive of their hive, they are not that much more dangerous than the bees already here. So why was the US so concerned about these Africanized honeybees? It’s because while they are a small threat to an individual, they had the potential to disrupt the pollination of crops and the production of honey. You see, these bees could interbreed and take over other hives, making it difficult to manage the honeybees used to make produce possible.

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