Honey bees - Species and characteristics

The honey-producing bees, also known as honey bees, they are mostly grouped in the genus Apis. However, we also find bees that produce honey within the Meliponini tribe, although in this case we are talking about a different honey, less abundant and more liquid, which has traditionally been used for medicinal purposes..

In this AnimalWised article we will show you all types of honey bees of the genus Apis, including those species that are extinct, with information on the species, characteristics and photos.

You may also be interested in: Types of bees Index
  1. European bee or western honey bee
  2. Asian honey bee or oriental honey bee
  3. Dwarf asian honey bee
  4. Giant bee or large Asian bee
  5. Honey bee from the Philippines
  6. Koschevnikov's Bee
  7. Dark Dwarf Asian Honey Bee
  8. Extinct honey bee species
  9. More about honey bees

European bee or western honey bee

The European bee (Apis mellifera) is probably one of the most popular honey bee species and was classified by Carl Nilsson Linnaeus in 1758. There are up to 20 recognized species and is native to Europe, Africa and Asia, although currently it has spread to all continents, except Antarctica [1].

There is great economic interest behind this species, as its pollination contributes significantly to world food production, in addition to producing honey, pollen, wax, royal jelly and propolis. [1] However, the use of certain pesticides, such as calcium polysulfide or Rotenat CE®, negatively affect the species, which is why it is so important to bet on organic farming and the use of non-harmful pesticides [two].

Also discover in AnimalWised how bees make honey.

Asian honey bee or oriental honey bee

The Asian bee (Apis cerana) is similar to the European bee, being slightly smaller. It is a native of Southeast Asia and lives in various countries, such as China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Bangladesh or Indonesia, however, it has also been introduced in Papua New Guinea, Australia and the Solomon Islands [3].

A recent study confirms that the presence of this species has decreased, mainly in Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Japan and South Korea, as well as its production mainly due to the conversion of forests into rubber and palm oil plantations. Likewise, it has also been affected by the introduction of Apis mellifera by beekeepers from Southeast Asia, since it offers higher productivity than endemic ones, causing in turn the appearance of various diseases in the Asian bee [3].

It is important to note that Apis nuluensis is currently considered a subspecies of Apis cerana.

Dwarf asian honey bee

The dwarf Asian honey bee (Apis florea) has traditionally been confused with the Apis andreniformis, also of Asian origin, due to their morphological similarities. However, they are differentiated mainly by one of the forelimbs, which is notably longer in the case of the Apis florea [4].

It extends around 7,000 km from the end eastern Vietnam to southeastern China[4] however, as of 1985 its presence was noticed on the African continent, probably due to global transport. Later colonies were also observed in the Middle East [5].

It is common for entire families to subsist on the honey produced by these bees, despite the fact that this sometimes causes the death of entire colonies, due to poor management and lack of beekeeping knowledge [6].

Don't miss our article on the life cycle of honey bees.

Giant bee or large Asian bee

The giant bee (Apis dorsata) stands out mainly for its big size when compared with other types of honey bees, standing between 17 and 20 mm. It inhabits tropical and subtropical regions, mainly in southeast Asia, Indoesia and Australia, forming extravagant nests in the branches of trees, always located near food sources [7].

Have been observed intraspecific aggressive behaviors in this species during times of migration to new nests, specifically among scouting individuals who were inspecting the same areas for nesting. In these cases there are violent fights that include stings, which causes the death of the individuals involved [8].

It is important to note that Apis laboriosa is currently considered a subspecies of Apis dorsata.

Honey bee from the Philippines

The Philippine honey bee (Apis nigrocincta) is present in Philippines and Indonesia and measures around 5.5 and 5.9 mm [9]. It is a species that nests in cavities, such as log holes, caves or human structures, usually close to the ground [10].

Being a species recognized relatively recently time and generally confused with nearby Apis, there is still little data on the species, but as a curiosity we can add that it is a species that can start new hives throughout the year, although there are certain factors that predispose it, such as predation by part of other species, lack of resources or extreme temperature [10].

Also discover the differences between wasps and bees.

Koschevnikov's Bee

Koschevnikov's bee (Apis koschevnikovi) is a species endemic to Borneo, Malaysia and Indonesia, thus sharing habitat with Apis cerana Nuluensis [11]. Like other Asian bees, the Koschevnikov bee usually nests in cavities, although its presence in the environment is being seriously affected by deforestation, caused by the plantations of tea, palm oil, rubber and coconut [12].

Unlike the other types of honey bees, this species has a tendency to create very small colonies, allowing it to survive in humid and rainy climates. Despite this, it stores resources easily and reproduces at an accelerated rate during flowering [13].

Dark Dwarf Asian Honey Bee

The Asian dwarf honey bee (Apis andreniformis) inhabits Southeast Asia, encompassing China, India, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines [14]. It is one of the species of honey bees that has gone unnoticed for years, as believed to be a subspecies of Apis florea, something that various studies have denied [14].

They are the darkest individuals of their genus and create their colonies in small trees or shrubs, thus taking advantage of the vegetation to go unnoticed. They are usually built close to the ground, at an average altitude of 2.5 m [15].

Image: John Ascher, 2006-2014 at //www.discoverlife.org/

Extinct honey bee species

Apart from the species of honey bees that we have mentioned, there are others that no longer inhabit planet earth and that are considered extinct:

  • Apis armbrusteri
  • Apis lithohermaea
  • Apis nearctica

More about honey bees

Bees are small but immensely important animals in maintaining the balance of planet earth, due to their important functions, the most prominent being pollination. For this reason, we share this video of Green Ecology in which more information is offered about the importance of bees.

But in addition, you can also delve into hive life and discover how a bee becomes a queen, an incredible process in which the entire colony is involved. So, if you like bees as much as we do, do not hesitate to visit these articles, ¡you will love them!

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