Honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) sampled at sites in Europe, Africa and South Ámerica were analysed using a mitochondrial DNA restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) marker. These samples were used to provide baseline information for a detailed analysis of the process of Africanization of bees from the neotropical Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. Radical changes in mitochondrial haplotype (mitotype) frequencies were found to have occurred in the 13-year period studied. Prior to the arrival of Africanized bees (1986) the original inhabitants of the Yucatan peninsula appear to have been essentially of southeastern European origin with a smaller proportion having northwestern European ancestry. Three years after the migration of Africanized bees into the area (1989), only very low levels of maternal gene flow from Africanized populations into the resident European populations had occurred. By 1998, however, there was a sizeable increase in the proportion of African mitotypes in domestic populations (61%) with feral populations having 87% of mitotypes classified as African derived. The results suggest that the early stages of Africanization did not involve a rapid replacement of European with African mitotypes and that earlier studies probably overestimated the prevalence of African mitotypes.