The true honey bee was not native to the Americas. Prior to Columbus, people in Central and South America collected honey from bees known as "stingless bees." Although stingless bees do actually lack a stinger, they are not completely defenseless. They can inflict painful bites with their mandibles. They also do not produce honey in the same quantity as a mellifera.
In the early part of the 16th century, the Spanish brought over the first honey bee colonies. English colonists did the same and soon honey bees had escaped into the wild and were buzzing all over North America. In some cases, the honey bees travelled in advance of the European settlers and came in contact with Native American tribes, who dubbed them "white man's flies." By the time the frontier had been settled, late in the 19th century, honey bees were regarded as a natural part of the insect world in North America. In Brazil and other tropical areas, the introduced honey bees did not survive as well as they did in temperate climates. In an effort to improve honey production in the tropics, a scientist began some breeding experiments using some of the common European honey bees and crossing them with the A. mellifera scutellata bees. This Africanized mixture proved to have the highly defensive behavior of the African race. In 1957 some of the bees escaped, and they have been slowly spreading northwards ever since. Africanized honey bees reached Arizona in 1993.
Today, more than 211,000 beekeepers maintain about 3.2 million honey bee colonies in the United States. Beekeepers often use their bees for pollination of crops rather than for honey production. In fact, one third of our food production is the direct result of pollination by insects. So, although we will have to be more cautious of honey bees in the future, they will remain an important part of our environment.—The Buzz.