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

Subspecies of Africa[edit]

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

  • Apis mellifera adansonii, classified by Latreille, 1804 - (the West African honey bee) Nigeria and Burkina Faso.[1]
  • Apis mellifera capensis, classified by Eschscholtz, 1822 - (the Cape honey bee) South Africa.[1]
  • Apis mellifera intermissa, classified by von Buttel-Reepen, 1906; Maa, 1953 (major is a junior synonym) - (the Tunisian honey bee) The northern part of Africa in the general area of Morocco, Libya and Tunisia. These bees are totally black in color. 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.[citation needed]
  • Apis mellifera jemenitica, classified by Ruttner, 1976 (nubica is a junior synonym) - (the Arabian honey bee) Somalia, Uganda, Sudan and Yemen.[1]
  • Apis mellifera lamarckii, classified by Cockerell, 1906 - (the Egyptian honey bee) The Nile Valley of Egypt and Sudan. This mitotype can also be identified in honey bees from California.[4]
  • Apis mellifera litorea, classified by Smith, 1961 - (the East African coastal honey bee) The low elevations of East Africa.[1]
  • Apis mellifera monticola, classified by Smith, 1961 - (the East African mountain honey bee) The high altitude mountains at elevation between 1,500 and 3,100 metres of East Africa (Mt. Elgon, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya and Mt. Meru).[1]
  • Apis mellifera sahariensis, classified by Baldensperger, 1932 - (the 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.[citation needed]
  • Apis mellifera scutellata, classified by Lepeletier, 1836 - (the East African lowland honey bee) Central and East Africa; also as hybrid populations in South America, Central America and the southern United States. 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 southern Brazil. Due to a mishap, some of the queens escaped. The East African lowland queens eventually mated with local European honey bee drones and produced what is now known as the Africanized honey bee in South and North America. The intense struggle for survival of western 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 the darker strains of the Italian honey bee.[5]
  • Apis mellifera simensis, classified by Meixner et al, 2011 - (the Ethiopian honey bee) Ethiopia.[6]
  • Apis mellifera unicolor, classified by Latreille, 1804 - (the Madagascan honey bee) Madagascar.[3]

Subspecies of the Middle East and Asia[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Michael S. Engel (1999). "The taxonomy of recent and fossil honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Apis)". Journal of Hymenoptera Research. 8: 165–196. hdl:1808/16476.
  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. ^ a b c Fontana, Paolo; et al. (2018). "Appeal for biodiversity protection of native honey bee subspecies of Apis mellifera in Italy" (PDF). Bulletin of Insectology. 71 (2): 257–271. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Abramson, Charles I.; Aquino, Italo S. (2002). "Behavioral Studies of Learning in the Africanized Honey Bee (Apis mellifera L.)". Brain, Behavior and Evolution. 59 (1–2): 68–86. doi:10.1159/000063734. PMID 12097861.
  6. ^ Meixner, Marina D.; Leta, Messele Abebe; Koeniger, Nikolaus; Fuchs, Stefan (2011). "The honey bees of Ethiopia represent a new subspecies of Apis melliferaApis mellifera simensis n. ssp" (PDF). Apidologie. 42 (3): 425–437. doi:10.1007/s13592-011-0007-y.
  7. ^ Sheppard, Walter S.; Meixner, Marina D. (July 2003). ", a new honey bee subspecies from Central Asia" (PDF). Apidologie. 34 (4): 367–375. doi:10.1051/apido:2003037.
  8. ^ 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". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 33 (5): 1337–1348. doi:10.1093/molbev/msw017.

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