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Fear of Killer Bees

In about 1956, biologists in Brazil imported a number of queen honeybees from Tanzania, intending to crossbreed them with local honey bees to produce a strain that made more honey and was better adapted to tropical conditions. In 1957, the African bees escaped into the wild, and the original plan backfired. Not only did honey production in the region drop sharply, but according to a 1965 report, hundreds of Brazilian dogs, pigs, and chickens were stung to death. In 1986, a Costa Rican student reportedly died after an estimated 8,000 killer bees stung him. The U.S. news media reacted with alarm, and Hollywood gave us such classics as [made for TV movie] Killer Bees (1974), The Swarm (1978), The Bees (1978), and Killer Bees (2002). Even Saturday Night Live, countered this grim trend with a series of skits about killer bees, featuring the entire cast in striped bee costumes (50 Health Scares that Fizzled, 2011).

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