Africanized honeybees have not reached the United States yet—the smart money is on their crossing the border from Mexico about February 1990. But these aggressive insects have already turned the bee research community upside down—a classic example of how Nature, every once in a while propels a low-profile scientific discipline into the limelight.

While some bee scientists in the field may bemoan the swarms of reporters demanding time-consuming interviews, others seem to enjoy basking in the sudden attention that, because of the Africanized bees, has been raining, on an otherwise esoteric branch of entomology. The publicity, they feel, could be key in their efforts to gain more foundation support for research. But despite the new visibility, bee specialists claim that research money is not increasing.

The problem with Africanized bees—often referred to as “killer bees,” although entomologists hate the term—began in 1957 when 26 colonies, imported to South America for...

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