‘Killer’ bees buzz into Bay Area

A breed of highly aggressive honeybees known for attacking and sometimes killing humans has been detected for the first time in the Bay Area, researchers said.

Africanized honeybees, sometimes referred to as “killer bees,” have appeared in the Reliez Valley area of Lafayette, according to researchers from University of California at San Diego.

And the researchers, who have tracked the expansion of the bees and published their findings Sept. 11 in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, speculate that there are other feral populations around the region.

Researchers said the bees’ range expanded to Mexico around 1985, Texas around 1990 and California around 1994. The bees were first introduced to Brazil in 1956 from southern Africa, researchers said.

Most of the state’s populations of the bee breed were living and breeding in Southern California, researchers said, but recent findings show a movement north.

Prior to the release of the researchers’ findings this month, such bees were only thought to be as far north as Mariposa County in the Central Valley. The discovery of the bees in the Bay Area was made based on a sample researchers took last year.

Africanized bees are distinguished from bees that have a European origin, which these bees are related to, according to a 2002 report issued by the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Compared to a bee from an African origin, European bees aren’t as defensive and are more predictable, according to the report.

But the report indicated that an Africanized bee sting is not actually more venomous than that of their European cousins. The sheer number in which they swarm is what makes these bees dangerous, with victims often being stung hundreds of times.

In early August, a swarm of the bees killed a construction worker and injured two others in Riverside when they unintentionally disturbed a hive, according to the local fire department.

People aren’t likely to notice a difference in the appearance of the more aggressive Africanized bees.

Faced with an encounter with any swarming bees, it is suggested that people run away and do not try to fight them off. When in a safe place, a bee professional should be called.