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Map Layer Info

Spread of Africanized Honey Bees in the United States

What this map layer shows:

The distribution of Africanized honey bees, by county, as of 2005.

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Background Information
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The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the United States Department of Agriculture conducts research on agricultural problems affecting both farmers and consumers in the United States and works to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority. ARS researchers look for ways to protect crops and livestock from pests and disease, improve the quality and safety of agricultural products, determine the nutritional requirements of Americans, and keep costs down for consumers. They also work to sustain the nation's soil and other natural resources and ensure profitability for farmers and agricultural processors. In addition, ARS provides research support to other Federal agencies.

ARS research includes studies of beneficial insects such as honey bees. Honey bees are the chief insect pollinator for more than 90 crops in the United States. They are vitally important to the farm economy of the nation and are also valued for the beeswax, honey, and other products they produce. Most honey bees in the United States are European bees, which were originally brought to this country by European colonists in the 1600s and 1700s.

Africanized honey bees are the result of honey bees brought from Africa to Brazil in the 1950s in hopes of breeding a bee better adapted to the South American tropical climate. These African honey bees reached the Brazilian wild in 1957 and then spread south and north until they officially reached the United States on October 19, 1990. They have since interbred with European honey bees, and because hybrid bees tend to exhibit many African honey bee traits while still retaining some European honey bee genes, the hybrid bees are referred to as Africanized honey bees. Honey bees, whether they are European, African, or Africanized, only sting defensively. However, Africanized honey bees are a concern to farmers and beekeepers because they are extremely protective of their hive and tend to be much more aggressive than European honey bees. This map layer was compiled by the National Atlas of the United States® from information provided by the Agricultural Research Service.

The Spread of Africanized Bees in the United States map layer shows the distribution of Africanized bees as of 2005. The data are mapped by county and include an indication of when the Africanized bees were first observed in each county. Counties where Africanized bees have not been observed are also indicated.

Further general information on honey bees is available from The University of Georgia, Department of Entomology Honey Bee Program page, and from the Texas A&M University Honey Bee Information site. Additional information on Africanized honey bees can be found in the Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet on the Africanized Honey Bee and on the ARS Carl Hayden Bee Research Center page.