List of Apis mellifera subspecies

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Apis mellifera, the western honey bee, has many subspecies.[1]

Subspecies of Europe[edit]

Apis mellifera
  • Apis mellifera adami, classified by Ruttner, 1975 - (Cretan honey bee) Crete
  • Apis mellifera carnica, classified by Pollmann, 1879 - (Carniolan honey bee) Carniola region of Slovenia, the Eastern Alps and northern Balkans - popular with beekeepers due to its extreme gentleness. The Carniolan honey bee tends to be quite dark in color and the colonies are known to shrink to small populations over winter and build very quickly in spring. It is a mountain bee in its native range and is a good bee for colder climates.
  • Apis mellifera caucasia, classified by Pollmann, 1889 - (Caucasian honey bee)
  • Apis mellifera cecropia, classified by Kiesenwetter, 1860 - (Greek honey bee) Southern Greece
  • Apis mellifera cypria, classified by Pollmann, 1879 - (Cyprus honey bee) The island of Cyprus - This subspecies has the reputation of being very fierce compared to the Italian subspecies, from which it is isolated by the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Apis mellifera iberiensis (often misspelled as iberica), classified by Engel, 1999 - (Spanish honey bee) the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal)
  • Apis mellifera ligustica, classified by Spinola, 1806 - (Italian honey bee) The most commonly kept race in North America, South America and southern Europe. They are kept commercially all over the world. They are very gentle, not very likely to swarm and produce a large surplus of honey. They have few undesirable characteristics. Colonies tend to maintain larger populations through winter, so they require more winter stores (or feeding) than other temperate zone subspecies. The Italian bee is light-colored and mostly leather-colored, but some strains are golden.
  • Apis mellifera macedonica, classified by Ruttner, 1988 - (Macedonian honey bee) Northern Greece (Macedonia and Thrace), Republic of Macedonia. Possibly synonymous with A. m. artemisia (Russian steppe honey bee) as described by Engel, 1999.[2]
  • Apis mellifera mellifera, classified by Linnaeus[citation needed], 1758 - (European dark honey bee) the dark-colored bee of northern Europe, also called the German black honey bee or German honey bee. Domesticated in modern times and taken to North America in colonial times.

Subspecies originating in Africa[edit]

Several researchers and beekeepers describe a general trait of the African subspecies which is absconding, where the Africanized honeybee colonies abscond the hive in times when food stores are low, unlike the European colonies which tend to die in the hive.

  • Apis mellifera adansonii, classified by Latreille, 1804 - (West African honey bee) originates Nigeria, Burkina Faso
  • Apis mellifera capensis, classified by Eschscholtz, 1822 - (Cape honey bee) South Africa
  • Apis mellifera intermissa, classified by von Buttel-Reepen, 1906; Maa, 1953 (major is a junior synonym) - (Tunisian honey bee) Northern part of Africa in the general area of Morocco, Libya and Tunisia. These bees are totally black. They are extremely fierce, but do not attack without provocation. They are industrious and hardy, but have many negative qualities that argue against their being favored in the honey or pollination industry.
  • Apis mellifera jemenitica, classified by Ruttner, 1976 (nubica is a junior synonym) - (Arabian honey bee) Somalia, Uganda, Sudan, Yemen
  • Apis mellifera lamarckii, classified by Cockerell, 1906 - (Egyptian honey bee) of the Nile Valley of Egypt and Sudan. This mitotype can also be identified in honey bees from California.[3]
  • Apis mellifera litorea, classified by Smith, 1961 - (East African coastal honey bee) Low elevations of East Africa
  • Apis mellifera monticola, classified by Smith, 1961 - (East African mountain honey bee) High altitude mountains at elevation between 1,500 and 3,100 metres of East Africa Mt. Elgon, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt.Kenya and Mt.Meru
  • Apis mellifera sahariensis, classified by Baldensperger, 1932 - (Saharan honey bee) the Moroccan desert oases of Northwest Africa. This subspecies faces few predators other than humans and is therefore very gentle. Moreover, because of the low density of nectar-producing vegetation around the oases it colonizes, it forages up to five miles, much farther than subspecies from less arid regions. Other authorities say that while colonies of this species are not much inclined to sting when their hives are opened for inspection, they are, nevertheless, highly nervous.
  • Apis mellifera scutellata, classified by Lepeletier, 1836 - (East African lowland honey bee) Central and East Africa, now hybrids also in South America, Central America and the southern U.S.. In an effort to address concerns by Brazilian beekeepers and to increase honey production in Brazil, Warwick Kerr, a Brazilian geneticist, was asked by Brazilian Federal and State authorities in 1956 to import several pure East African lowland queens from Tanzania to Piracicaba-São Paulo State in the south of Brazil. In a mishap, some queens escaped. The East African lowland queens eventually mated with local drones and produced what are now known as Africanized honey bees on the American continent. The intense struggle for survival of honey bees in sub-Saharan Africa is given as the reason that this subspecies is proactive in defending the hive and also more likely to abandon an existing hive and swarm to a more secure location. They direct more of their energies to defensive behaviors and less of their energies to honey storage. East African lowland honey bees are leather-colored and difficult to distinguish by eye from darker strains of Italian honey bees.[4]
  • Apis mellifera simensis, classified by Meixner et al, 2011 - (Ethopian honey bee) Ethiopia[5]
  • Apis mellifera unicolor, classified by Latreille, 1804 - (Madagascan honey bee) Madagascar

Subspecies of the Middle East and Asia[edit]


  1. ^ Michael S. Engel (1999). "The taxonomy of recent and fossil honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Apis)". Journal of Hymenoptera Research. 8: 165–196.
  2. ^ Ivanova, Evgeniya N.; Petrov, Plamen; Bouga, Maria; Kence, Meral (2010). "Genetic variation in honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) populations from Bulgaria". Journal of Apicultural Science. 2 (#2): 49–59.
  3. ^ Nielsen, D.I.; Ebert, P.R.; Page, R.E.; Hunt, G.J.; Guzmán-Novoa, E. (January 2000). "Improved Polymerase Chain Reaction-Based Mitochondrial Genotype Assay for Identification of the Africanized Honey Bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae)". Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 93 (#1): 1–6. doi:10.1603/0013-8746(2000)093[0001:IPCRBM]2.0.CO;2.
  4. ^ Abramson, Charles I., Aquino, Italo S. 2002. Brain, Behavior, Evolution 59:68-86) Behavioral Studies of Learning in the Africanized Honey Bee (Apis mellifera L.) web accessed Nov. 2006
  5. ^ Meixner, Marina D.; Leta, Messele Abebe; Koeniger, Nikolaus; Fuchs, Stefan (2011). "The honey bees of Ethiopia represent a new subspecies of Apis mellifera—Apis mellifera simensis n. ssp". Apidologie. 42 (#3): 425–437. doi:10.1007/s13592-011-0007-y.
  6. ^ Sheppard, Walter S.; Meixner, Marina D. (July 2003). ", a new honey bee subspecies from Central Asia". Apidologie. 34 (#4): 367–375. doi:10.1051/apido:2003037.
  7. ^ Chao Chen; et al. (January 27, 2016). "Genomic Analyses Reveal Demographic History and Temperate Adaptation of the Newly Discovered Honey Bee Subspecies Apis mellifera sinisxinyuan n. ssp" (PDF). Molecular Biology and Evolution (#33(5)): 1337–1348. Retrieved 22 January 2019.

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