Bees Types: Apis and Honeybee Varieties

Introduction to Bee Varieties

Bees are well-known for their role in the pollination of crops, and the production of food and medical products, such as beeswax, honey bee venom, and royal jelly. Most people are aware of the queen bees and worker bees’ roles, but beyond those two, there are plenty of other jobs that bees have been hardwired to take on. There are over 20,000 kinds of bees that are known, and they span across many continents. The common Western honey bee, scientifically referred to as Apis Mellifera, is an important bee figure among the vast number of species you’ll find. In this article, we focus on delving into the apis varieties, to better understand their origins and known traits.

Apis, Honey

Western Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera)

Known for its black and yellow striped abdomen, the large size of its colony, and the tendency to find closed-up communal spaces for their hive construction, Apis Mellifera is one of the most vastly distributed bee species worldwide. For thousands of years, Apis Mellifera’s genetics have been significantly altered by domestication and human behavior. Humans breed selectively by eliminating negative traits of aggression and prioritizing characteristics such as honey production and climate hardiness.

In the past, geographic isolation due to areas such as tall mountains and barren deserts, caused their bee genetics to be less widely spread. However, as a result of human action, the Apis Mellifera species now exist in places that they previously did not, and this includes countries such as Australia, the United States, and South East Asia. In the following, we discuss several of the more popular Apis Mellifera’s sub-varieties.

1. Apis Mellifera Mellifera

Apis Mellifera Mellifera refers to the dark or German honey bee species; a relatively recent discovery in the European regions. Apis Mellifera Mellifera has a body-color that ranges from dark brown to jet black, where they don’t have the slightest drop of yellow coloring in their original form and are small and stocky in size. However, the spread of the Italian bee makes it difficult to find the original variety of the Apis Mellifera. Additionally, they live comfortably even through the wet and cold seasons.

2. Apis Mellifera Linguistica

Apis Mellifera Linguistica, also known as the Italian honey bee species, is probably the most famous sub-variety of the Apis Mellifera. This species of Apis Mellifera is one of the most well-known varieties of domesticated bees worldwide and can hold out in the warmer weather much better than its cousins in the North. Humans have done much cross-breeding with this Italian bee type because of their various good traits; gentle character, industrious honey production, bee eggs, and beeswax. This doesn’t mean to say that the Apis Mellifera Linguistica species has no undesirable characteristics; they have a bad habit of stealing their neighbors’ honey and can even hop to other colonies as and when they like.

3. Apis Mellifera Carnica

The Apis Mellifera Carnica first appeared in Eastern Europe. Known as the Carneolan or grey honey bee species, they are small in size and have a grey tinge because of the great number of body hairs. The Apis Mellifera Carnica are known for their gentle temperament and are hence well-liked by beekeepers seeking gentle bees that are easy to work with. Their population size dwindles during the Winter but springs back to life once the cold wears off.

4. Apis Mellifera Caucasica

Known as the Caucasian honey bee species, the Apis Mellifera Caucasica is a large variety originating from the Caucasus region. Similar to the Carneolan, they have a large amount of hair on their bodies, and can hence seem grey in color. They are also considered one of the gentler bees like the Carneolan, but they don’t build up their colonies as rapidly as them.

5. Apis Mellifera Iberiensis

The Apis Mellifera Iberiensis, or the Iberian or Gibraltar honey bee species, are an uncommon type of Western honeybee specie. They are mostly seen in the Iberian peninsula. Due to the pickiness of the drone bees, their offspring remain amazingly pure and true to their own genes, but they also have a wide range of genes within their own species. One unique feature they have is their stubbornness in defending their home, where they are known to check the surroundings for up to 24 hours after an attack and will turn aggressive to anything that comes in their way.

6. Apis Mellifera Scutellata

This specie is the Africanized honey bee, which originated in Southern Africa but has now expanded rapidly throughout the United States. This happens through their aggressive nature of forcibly taking control of other colonies by eliminating and replacing the queen bee; they are scarily fierce!

Other Species

1. Apis cerana

Known as the Asiatic, Eastern, or Himalayan honey bee, the Apis Cerana has a smaller body constitution, which unfortunately does affect their size of honey production as compared to their European counterparts; they just don’t collect as much honey. Due to much importation of the Apis Cerana species, many have contracted diseases isolated to the affected regions, such as varroa mites. Yet, the Apis Cerana is extremely hygienic, where they put much effort into the renewal of wax of brood combs, and in the protection of bee larvae from pathogens. They have also developed resistance to temperature changes. 

2. Apis Dorsata

Apis Dorsata is known as giant honey bees, and are named as such due to their large size and aggressiveness. This bee species can be mostly found below hanging trees and rocky cliffs, which means that they cannot be domesticated. As a result, their honey can only be harvested by climbing and then directly cutting off their honeycombs.

The Apis species are no doubt a wonderfully diverse bee species, with approximately 44 known sub-varieties, or more. Identified by common traits of honey production, wax comb production, and colonial living with the presence of the queen bee, the apis also demonstrates other distinctive behavioral characteristics that we have discussed above. What’s more, this species of bees is just one of many that exists in the world, so you should definitely do your research on the other types of species out there if you’re interested to find out more about bees!


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