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Species of Honey Bees

Currently, seven species and 44 subspecies of honey bees are known to inhabit the world. The most common among the seven species is the Western honey bee that is found in all continents, except for Antarctica. It has also been domesticated to produce honey and the pollination of crops. The only true honey bees are members of the genus Apis.

Seven Different Species of Honey Bees

  1. The Apis nigrocincta is a honey bee species living in the Philippine island of Mindanao, Sulawesi, and Sangihe in Indonesia.
  2. The European honey bee (Apis mellifera) or the western honey bee is the most common among the honey bee species of the world. Like the other honey bees, the European honey bee is also highly social in nature.
  3. Apis koschevnikovi is a honey bee species that is found in the Borneo island of Indonesia and Malaysia.
  4. The Asiatic honey bee (Apis cerana), also known as the eastern honey bee, is a honey bee species that lives in southeastern and southern Asia.
  5. The giant honey bee (Apis dorsata) is found primarily in the forested areas of South and Southeast Asia with significant populations in India, Nepal, Malaysia, and Singapore. The bees are about 17 to 20 mm in length.
  6. The red dwarf honey bee (Apis florea) is a small honey bee species found in parts of southern and southeastern Asia, as well as Africa.
  7. The black dwarf honey bee (Apis andreniformis) lives in the tropical and subtropical areas of southeast Asia.


The following information was taken from :


The western honey bee, Apis mellifera Linnaeus, naturally occurs in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This species has been subdivided into at least 20 recognized subspecies (or races), none of which are native to the Americas. However, subspecies of the western honey bee have been spread extensively beyond their natural range due to economic benefits related to pollination and honey production.


In the United States, “European” honey bees represent a complex of several interbreeding European subspecies including; Apis mellifera ligustica Spinola, Apis mellifera carnica Pollmann, Apis mellifera mellifera Linnaeus, Apis mellifera causcasia Pollmann, and Apis mellifera iberiensis Engel. Introduction of these subspecies dates back to early American settlers in 1622. More recently (late 1950s), a subspecies of African honey bee.


The African honey bee, Apis mellifera scutellata Lepeletier, is a subspecies (or race) of the western honey bee, Apis mellifera Linnaeus, that occurs naturally in sub-Saharan Africa but has been introduced into the Americas. More than 10 subspecies of western honey bees exist in Africa and all justifiably are called 'African' honey bees. However, the term "African (Africanized) honey bee" refers exclusively to A.m. scutellata in the bee's introduced range.



Being chased down by a swarm of aggressive honey bees is a fear of many people. An actual swarm of Honey Bees are at their most gentle state, as they have made preparations to split from the main colony to venture out into the world and create a new colony. Since a swarm of Honey Bees has no home to defend, they would truly require an almost intentional and deliberate act to force them to attack in any quantities. Those of us that have stood inside of a massive swarms of Honey Bees and just been amazed at the sight and sound of what is going on around us are the ones who can truly understand how far we are from being stung at this time. If you get one caught in your hair or in a piece of clothing there is a good chance you may get stung as you attempt to remove the entangled girl as she could since this as a threat to her life and attempt to defend herself in the only way she knows and with the weapon that has been given her to do so.


The three sub-species of European honey bee present are known for their gentleness. Yet at the same time feral bees that descended from these sub-species can at times be more aggressive.


Almost all beehives consist of some sort of hybrids these days. It’s also not uncommon for Italian queen bees, with highly productive, yet docile, to be used by beekeepers to re-queen their beehives. The genetics and temperament of a gentle queen will be reflected in the temperament of the worker bees within a colony, which makes it easier to manage. If you know how to handle them, there are other thing to consider before giving up on an aggressive hive. After all, aggressive bees are just defensive bees.


The notorious Africanized Bee, aka Killer Bee also has some advantages. There are studies and reports that show they tend to “begin foraging at a younger age, typically produce more honey, and have a significantly smaller colony size, even though they reproduce at a faster pace”.


They have become the stuff of media sensation and horror movies, and researchers have found that even the history of these bees has been mythologized


According to University of Tennessee researchers Moore, Wilson and Skinner, Kerr intentionally performed hybridization experiments, reared and artificially inseminated African queens with Italian honey bee drones, and distributed these bees to beekeepers in southern Brazil. His intention was to breed a race of honey bee that would be more adapted to the tropical climate of South America. He described these colonies as “the most prolific, productive, and industrious bees.” But their rapid spread through Brazil and Argentina did not go unnoticed, with reports of “killer bees”, rapidly spreading northward, widely circulated in US media by the mid 1960s.


Many would like to see feral honey populations wiped out for the sake of our birds and other flora and fauna. But at the same tome a lot of food crops rely on feral bees for pollination. So perhaps we need to grow our managed bee populations for those purposes instead. And feral bees can be rehabilitated for such purposes. This is why we believe that capturing feral swarms to develop into managed hives is a great option.


It has been found that once-feral hives with higher levels of aggression are also the most productive. These Honey Bees are nowhere near as problematic or dangerous as Africanised bees, which many beekeepers in the Americas successfully work with.


At the same time a more docile hive will suit the needs of the backyard beekeeper who just wants a bit of honey for their home, family and friends, particularly if you’re a beginner. And if you do want to re-home feral bees into a backyard beehive, this is still a manageable and rewarding option.

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