September 16, 2019/Bee
  • By Nectar Foods

Good day friends, its nice meeting you again. I am sure you’ve been learning a lot about the bee. And once again I am Bee Royal. Before proceeding with the types of Honey bees, let’s do a quick revision of our last lesson.

In our last topic, we discussed the different types of bee and classified them under their family, honey bee which I am one included. Today, we’ll be focusing on the Honey bee.

Honey bees are members of the genus Apis and family Apidae. They are famous for the production and storage of honey and the usage of wax to create colonial nests. 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 Antarctica. It has also been domesticated for the production of honey and the pollination of crops. Only members of the genus Apis are known as the true honey bees. However, some other closely related bees are also known to produce honey but we will be focusing n the recognized seven.

1. Apis andreniformis: also called the dark dwarf honey bee is a relatively rare species of honey bee whose native habitat is the tropical and subtropical regions of Southeast Asia. The black dwarf honey bee (Apis andreniformis) is a relatively rare species and has been recently classified as a separate species. It was formally confused with the sister species Apis florea. It is the smallest of all species of honey bees.  It is the darkest of the Apis genus, and the queens are almost entirely dark. The worker bees have lighter and almost yellow scutellum. These bees form open-air nests in the darker areas of the forest receiving about 25 to 30% of normal sunlight. The nests are single-combed and hang from small twigs of forest trees. The honeycombs are about 70 to 90 mm in size. The black dwarf honey bee is generally a lowland species and might migrate to higher lands during the rainy season. The species is utilized by humans to prepare some commercial products like honey, wax, royal jelly, and bee venoms. They are important pollinating agents in their region of occurrence.

Honey Bee - Apis andreniformis

2. Apis florea: commonly called the Dwarf honey bee or Red dwarf honey bee, is one of two species of small, wild honey bees of southern and southeastern Asia. The name red dwarf honey bee came into existence due to the reddish-brown colouration on their abdomen, and their relatively small size compared to the other honeybees. It has a much wider distribution than its sister species, Apis andreniformis. The bees build open nests and form small colonies which makes them more prone to predators. The bees dance to decide to build a new nesting site. The bees build a single comb nest on a single branch and might salvage the wax from the previous nest if it is close to the new one. A. Florea adults eat primarily honey and nectar but also feed the larvae on pollen. Future queens are fed royal jelly and are reared in larger cells so they become larger. Foraging signal s are also communicated via dancing displays. The red dwarf honey bees are extensively hunted for their honey. The bees also have an important place in Hindu and Buddhist culture.

Honey Bee - Apis florea

3. 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. The nests are built in the open at great heights like cliff overhangs, tall buildings or tall trees in dense forests. These bees are known for their vicious behavior and aggressive nature. Their hives are an important source of beeswax and honey which has been harvested for centuries by the indigenous people of the region inhabited by the bees. The giant honey bees build a single vertical comb that is covered by several layers of a dense mass of bees. The organization of the comb is similar to that in the other honeybee species: honey storage at the top, followed by pollen storage, worker brood, and drone brood. At the lower part of the nest is the colony’s active area, known as the “mouth”, where workers take off and land, and where communication dances by scouts, announcing the discovery of food sources, take place. This dance takes place on the vertical surface of the comb, and during its progress, the bees must have a clear view of the sky to observe the exact location of the sun. Workers of A. dorsata are however able to fly at night when the light of the moon is adequate. However, this tree’s honey is highly prized locally, in some places commanding the best prices in the local market.

The giant Honey Bee

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. The bees build nests with multiple combs in cavities with a small entrance that protects the colonies from threats. In the wild, the oriental honeybees construct their multiple-comb nests in dark enclosures such as caves, rock cavities, and hollow tree trunks. The normal nesting site is, in general, close to the ground, not more than 4-5 meters high. The bees’ habit of nesting in the dark enables man to keep them in specially constructed vessels, and for thousands of years, Apis cerana has been kept in various kinds of hives, i.e. clay pots, logs, boxes, wall openings, etc. Despite the relatively recent introduction of movable-frame hives, colonies of Apis cerana kept in traditional hives are still a common sight in the villages of most Asian countries. As a result, the feral nests of the oriental honeybee in tropical Asia sustain fewer casualties in being hunted by man than those of the dwarf and giant honeybees. Pollen, nectar, and honey constitute the diet of these bees. It is also a very social species with eight distinct subspecies. The several combs of an A. cerana colony are built parallel to each other, and a uniform distance is known as the “bee space” is respected between them. The body size of the workers of this tree is much smaller than that of the A. dorsata workers, and its brood comb consists of cells of two sizes: smaller for the worker brood and larger for the drone brood. The queen cells are built on the lower edge of the comb. As in the other Apis species, honey is stored in the upper part of the combs, but also the outer combs, adjacent to the hive walls.

Asiatic honey bee

5. Apis koschevnikovi is a honey bee species that are found in the Borneo island of Indonesia and Malaysia. The bees are all dark and brown-banded. The queen and the drones have light brown bands on the abdomen while the workers have light orange abdominal bands. Within their range, the bees inhabit tropical evergreen forests. Habitat destruction due to the clearance of land for plantations is the biggest threat to the survival of these bees. The bees live in small colonies in few combs within the tree cavities in the forests. It is a nectar-feeder and an important pollinator in its habitat.

Honey Bee - Apis koschevnikovi

6. 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. It was one of the first insects to be domesticated and it the most common honey bee reared by beekeepers for their honey and role as a pollinator. The honey bee is currently found in all continents except Antarctica.

European honey bee

7. The Apis nigrocincta is a honey bee species living in the Philippine island of Mindanao, Sulawesi, and Sangihe in Indonesia. Little is known about the biogeography is this species. In Sulawesi, most of the colonies of this honey bee are found at elevations above 400 meters. The bees build medium-sized cavity nests with multiple combs that are nearly equidistant from each other. The nesting sites are close to the ground. Two types of combs are found with the smaller being for the workers and the larger ones for the drones. Cells for the queen are found towards the lower edges of the combs.

Honey Bee - Apis nigrocincta