Americanized Feral Honey Bee AFHB

The REAL danger of the AFHB, is their defense response. You must get away from the bees. ​.....Assume that any and all bee hives or swarms you encounter are aggressive and get away.
AFHB Americanized Honey Bees 101

Written by Forrest Breese

 One of the things that I deal with daily is educating people on Americanized Feral Honey Bees (AHB or AFHB).
Yes, that is what they should be called. Let's start using this term immediately.
No reference to murder, no reference to another continent that didn't breed this wonderful hybrid bee that has been demonized by some. The fact is most news sources in the USA seek to scare the public rather than educate and inform. This page serves to offer information as valid source on this subject. I will update this page with any pertinent information as public service and less for Beekeepers. Most Beekeepers know how to work the bees.

Here is what you need to know:

Americanized Feral Honey Bee Facts
  • The number of annual deaths from bee stings in the USA has not increased since the arrival of the AHB. The average number of bee sting deaths in the USA is 50-75 people per year.
  • The number of people going to ER rooms with severe multiple bee stings has risen in the USA.
  • AFHB have the same venom as bred European honey bees. The venom is not stronger or more toxic in any way. The average adult human can get stung about 1000 times and still live.
  • AFHB are healthier, cleanier and produce lots of honey.
  • They require no chemical treatments from humans. (Repeat that one.)

AFHB Behavior and Temperment
  • They are easily annoyed and angered, which triggers their defense response.
  • They will defend their colony aggressively and will patrol a large (Up to 150ft) diameter around the colony. 
  • They do not like anything near their hive. As the colony grows in size they will always become more defensive. Don't be fooled by their nice behavior when they first arrive. They do not like animals or people stopping and staring at their hive, especially the hive entrance. AHB do not like any powered landscape equipment or even stationary muscle cars and motorcycles near their hive.
  • They can even be defensive during swarm movement. The old rule that bees won’t sting when they swarm is no longer 100% valid.
  • They will be extra aggressive and nervous on hot days. So leave them alone!
  • The REAL danger is their defense response. You must get away from the bees. 
    • The traditional European bees that we all grew up with (prior to roughly 1989) will send out a few to a couple dozen guard bees to deal with a perceived threat (you). If you don't get away and remain close to the hive while being stung, the European bees would send out a few more bees to sting you and usually at a slow even rate.
    • If you don't get away after "warning fly by" from some colonies of AFHB and remain in the same area, They will send out 50 to 100's of bees as just the first wave of attack. ​Attack wave one is expecting you to run and leave, when you don't gets worse....really quick.  If you stay in the area of the AHB, they will literally pour out of the colony to attack you and will use 50-75% (1000's) of available flying bees in the colony to do so. So just leave the area if you get stung.

 I perform bee removals in Southern California, a 95% AFHB interbred area. That means 95% of the feral or wild bees that I remove are AFHB. About 10-20% of those AHB colonies are mean. Most are grumpy, simliar to Russian bees.
And many of the colonies have healthy, disease free bees that are nice! (Repeat that.)
The nice AHB are the ideal candidates for queen and drone rearing.
Strategies to Minimize Stings and Negative Encounters

  • Assume that any and all bee hives or swarms you encounter could be aggressive and just stay away.
  • Don’t watch them or bother them, get away and call a beekeeper.
  • Inspect all water meter and valve boxes regularly.
  • If bees move in, don't wait to get them removed.
  • Don’t spray water or any poison at the bees
  • When in doubt, get away and call a beekeeper!

Bee Sting Attack Information
 The information below is NOT medical advice. If you are stung and have no history of bee stings, seek medical attention ASAP.

  • Read and SHARE this page and our page, Bee Sting Guide, which has an excerpt from a wonderful article written by Jamie Ellis in  Volume 156, No 1 of the American Bee Journal.
  • Even if you get one sting, get away from the bees ASAP. The stinger has a scent that will attract more bees to attack and sting you
  • If you are being attacked by several bees, pull your shirt up to cover your eyes, mouth and nose. You can see through the fabric. Get inside or in a car quickly. DON’T Stop until you are inside. You may have to let them sting your body in order to protect your face as you run away
  • If you have nowhere to go inside then run in the opposite direction of where the bees are and don’t stop and look back. You may have to run 1/3 mile or more. Running through dense bushes and trees will help get them away, but keep going far away.
  • You MUST help High Risk People to get inside and away from the bees. Cover their face with their shirt or your shirt if needed and get inside. High Risk People include infants, children elderly, autistic, disabled, blind, bee venom allergies or any other condition that would impede the individual’s ability to get themselves inside or away from the bees quickly.
  • Once you are inside and away from the bees you can start dealing with stingers.
  • People who are allergic to bees should use their EpiPen and call 911.
  • Unless, you have a known reaction to Windex, spray all bee stings with Windex or use a ammonia bee sting pen like After Bite and remove the stinger ASAP. This will reduce almost all bee stings in some way.

General Sting Guidelines:
  • Healthy person with no known allergy: Get inside, and remove the stinger, put on AfterBite or Windex now with stinger removed, Take a Benadryl or Zyrtec. Monitor your reaction for next couple hours.

  • High Risk person: Stay Calm, Get Inside, CALL 911 NOW, then remove the stinger, and put on AfterBite or Windex. Use your EpiPen (if available). Do not take Benadryl or any other medication until medical services arrives and/or states otherwise. Stay calm while you wait for help. Paramedics are very good at slowing down and stopping allergic reactions to bee stings.

​Another great paper on bees and stings from Texas A&M can be found here at this link: