World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Honey bee race

Article Id: WHEBN0000432932
Reproduction Date:

Title: Honey bee race  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: European dark bee, Buckfast bee, Glossary of beekeeping, Beekeeping, Apis mellifera intermissa
Collection: Beekeeping
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Honey bee race

Honey bee race is a classifications of honey bees, in particular European dark bees (Apis mellifera mellifera) into various named instances of an informal taxonomic rank of race—below that of subspecies—on the basis of shared genetic traits.


The race of honey bees is classified into various named instances of an informal taxonomic rank of race—below that of subspecies—on the basis of shared genetic traits. Honey bees are divided into several species. In Europe, the Americas, and Australia, the term "honey bee" means a bee of the species A. mellifera. They all spring from bees that originated in Europe and Africa. In other parts of the world, there are several other recognized honey bee species, most notably A. cerana, A. dorsata, and A. florea. The first two of these species have subspecies. The classification has been more defined for the European dark bees (Apis mellifera mellifera).

Differences in the colors of bees may be more pronounced in queens and drones; workers are much less easily differentiated by color. Drones are produced from the unfertilized eggs of queens and therefore their genetic characteristics depend entirely on those of the queen, whereas worker bees are produced from fertilized eggs, which means that each worker bee will share genetic characteristics. To make things even more complicated, a queen will normally mate several times before settling down to a life of egg laying, and the spermatozoa from her multiple matings are retained alive within her body. That means that workers may only be half-sisters, and their colors and other characteristics may differ.

Pure representatives of any race are becoming ever rarer because humans have imported favored subspecies to regions that previously had distinctive type(s) of their own, and the imported bees have interbred with the native bees. The best chance to find representatives of any subspecies is in the center or the most protected part of the subspecies' native area. In the Americas, there has been a great deal of mixing of subspecies (and European dark bee "races") of the European honey bee (A. mellifera) more generally, since all American honey bees have been imported at some point after 1492. Lacking systematic and widespread DNA analyses, it is difficult to estimate which subspecies predominate there, and it is probably more realistic to treat most feral populations as belonging to undefined hybrid lineages. Among beekeepers, the term "race" has been used increasingly imprecisely, and is often used to refer to bee subspecies and hybrids as well as sub-subspecific divisions more properly.

There are also certain lineages of honey bees whose rank is below that of subspecies (particularly within the nominate subspecies, A. m. mellifera), being little more than color variants or domesticated lineages (strains) that may not be correlated with distinct native distributions; these are "races" in the most restrictive sense, and are often referred to as "breeds". These were often given their own scientific names when originally described, but modern zoological nomenclature does not recognize the names given to these forms as valid, as only ranks of subspecies and above have formal scientific names in zoology.


Based on morphological similarities and the separation of regions during and since the last ice age, there are five bee lineages[1]

Lineages of known hybrid origin, such as Africanized bees and Buckfast bees, do not have formal names.

Within the lineage 'M' there are three races


  1. ^ Gene flow within the M evolutionary lineage of Apis mellifera: role of the Pyrenees, isolation by distance and post-glacial re-colonization routes in western Europe. Apidologie 38 (2007) 141–155. 2 August 2006. p141
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.