Everyone has heard of killer bees, and they are just as aggressive as rumors make them out to be. Killer bees, also known as Africanized honey bees, escaped from a Brazilian laboratory back in 1956. Over the next thirty years, killer bees slowly made their way up Central America and Mexico before finally making their way into the United States at some point during the late 1980s. Experts believe that killer bees will eventually make their way into Canada as well. Africanized honey bees have benefitted the Brazilian economy in a variety of ways, including turning the country into one of the world’s leading honey exporters as well as providing pollination for numerous types of crops. Unfortunately, these bees have also caused numerous deaths by indulging in mass swarming attacks on crowds of people. While it is well known that Africanized honey bees are aggressive toward humans, it should not be surprising to learn that these bees are aggressive toward other bees as well. In fact, Africanized honey bee colonies stage coups that see the queens of common bee colonies assassinated so that killer bee queens can take their place as ruler.
When a killer bee colony takes over another bee colony, the process is not immediate, as killer bee workers first make friends with the workers of a common bee colony by helping them with various foraging and nest-keeping duties. Over time, the killer bees and the common bees exchange pheromone signals, which ensures that killer bee workers will be adopted by the common bee colony. After the killer bees are considered fully acclimated members of the common bee colony, the colony’s queen mysteriously goes missing. Experts believe that the queen is most likely assassinated by killer bee workers, but in any case, the common queen is removed so that the killer bee queen can take her place in order to rule over the colony. From this point on, the two bee colonies have become one colony that produces hybrid bees. By mixing genes with adaptable European honey bees, killer bees become better adapted to a variety of environments. This coup process is the primary tactic by which killer bees continue to spread to new regions.
Do you know of any other social insects that overthrow the royal pair in foreign insect colonies?