Are Honey Bees Native to America: Honey Bee Species and Their Origins

The United States of America is the third biggest honey producer in the world. Meaning that the honey bee population in the US is really high. However, honey bees are not native to America. They can be found nearly everywhere in the world but their origin differs from species to species. Most important countries where the honey bees are native to are Austria, Italia, and the Caucasus Region.

There are also honey bee species that are native to other regions such as Anatolia, Cyprus, Belfast, North America, Great Britain, and Middle Europe. Since honey bees are very important for the ecosystem, their home range should be prevented from being disturbed, ie the places where honey bees are native to should be conserved for the healthy and sustainable continuation of honey bee species.

Where Honey Bees Are Native To: Honey Bee Species

The honey bee was first named “Apis mellifera” by Linnaeus in 1758, meaning “bee carrying honey”. Later, although Apis Mellifica was used to mean “bee making honey”, it was not settled as much as its first name. Apis mellifera is the most widespread among the bee species and used in commercial beekeeping. This species is divided into many races in itself.

Black or Brown Honey Bees (Apis mellifera L.)

They have spread to almost every part of the world. Such bees can be seen in Asia, Central Europe, England, North Africa, and America. Bees of black origin are seen in the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia, and Russia. Its homeland is Central Russia, west, and north of the Central European Alps. Beginning from the 17th century, brown bees were transported to North and South America and to the Siberia by crossing the Urals. With the development of modern beekeeping, their importance has decreased. It is of regional importance in some parts of Spain, Poland, and Russia. Lines have been developed in Switzerland, the Austrian Alps, Germany, and Scandinavia. These lines are grown with close blood supply and obtained from a father. In other regions, they hybridized with Ligustica, Carnica, and Caucasian breeds.

Their tongue is short, about 5.7-6.4 mm. They are large bees, there are yellow dots, not yellow lines, on the 2nd and 3rd abdominal rings. Their bodies are covered with long and sparse hair. The hair on the bosom of the bee is dark brown, sometimes black. They are very hardworking, but because their tongue is short, they cannot benefit from some plants such as clover. With a few exceptions, this breed is not preferred. Good results were obtained in England and Norway with rich shrubs. They are not inclined to give sons. There is a line called Heather bee that is selected only in the direction of giving son.

Wintering skills are good under severe climatic conditions. The juvenile yields are not high. Spring developments are slow. There is always enough honey in the cub eyes and the dangers of starving are very weak. Brown bees, which are frugal and managing, have always some honey in their hives although other bee breeds eat their warehouses in areas with weak vegetation. When they crossbreed with other breeds, they had a superior survival and performance, but the strenuous tendencies, which were very strong, could not be eliminated. They are usually angry and ready to escape from the hive. They are aggressive, although not much. They are sensitive to offspring diseases and wax moths.

Yellow Honey Bees (A. m. Ligustica Spin) [H2]

Its homeland is Italy, especially Sicily. This race, known for its calm on honeycomb as a behavior, creates large colonies in Mediterranean ecology with its fast and year-round reproduction. They face the risk of starvation in insufficient flora conditions and in long winter regions. It is a race with a high tendency to plunder and a low tendency to give sons. The spreading area of ​​this breed is not as brown as bees. It was gathered around Italy and the Mediterranean. In 1853, they were taken to Germany from Venice by Dzierzon. They were taken to America from Italy in 1859. The Italian bee is the most recognized and commercial value among yellow bees, and its contribution to modern beekeeping has also been enormous. Efficient studies are carried out in America and Italy and queen bees belonging to this race are sent all over the world.

They are known for their yellow chitin, yellow hair color, and thin long abdomen. According to the number of lanes in the belly rings of the Italian bee race, there are 2 types, 3 lanes and 5 lanes (golden bees). It is small compared to the wasp, thin belly and relatively long tongue (6.3-6.6 mm). The cubital index has been determined as 2.2-2.5. The color of the kit under the abdomen and in the 2-4th rings is brighter. There are yellow bands on the front rings. Families with broad-colored bands or brown thinner stripes are also found. Light colors are usually yellow scaly. Very light colored types of Ligustica, which has only a black spot on the end of the abdomen, are known as the Golden bee or Aurea. Yellowish color is especially evident in drones.

They are calmly created, they move little, do not run on the frames when the hive is examined, their ability to reproduce is high. In strong families, reproduction begins in early spring and continues until autumn. The raising characteristics of the offspring are good and the tendency to give sons is weak. They accept queen bees more easily than other breeds. They are gluttonous and consume much honey during the winter season. If the winter season lasts longer, worker bee losses increase during the rearing of the offspring, and the development of families becomes slow and difficult. In areas with low nectar, they may face hunger due to high consumption. Ligustica breed is a typical bee breed that has adapted to the short, soft and humid winters of the Mediterranean region and dry summers with high nectar yields.

They cannot succeed in regions where winters are prolonged and spring is delayed. With their long tongue, they can benefit from plants such as clover. Thanks to its superior honeycomb power, it is best known as the bee race that produces comb honey. They do not store honey for the winter as much as the Caucasian race. The fact that families are strong, durable and cunning causes the habit of looting but also increases their performance. The raiding habit of this race is remarkable as an undesired feature. They usually fly towards the wrong hive. They clean the hive well and are more resistant to wax moth and European foulbrood disease than brown bees.

Carniolan Honey Bees (A. m. Carnica Pollmann)

Its homeland is the southern part of the Austrian Alps and the northern Balkans. The steppe bee, which is seen in southern Russia and resembles a Carniolan bee, is recognized as a passage race between the brown bee and the Carniolan bee. It is similar to Ligustica in appearance, thin and long tongue (6.4-6.8 mm). The cubital index value of the Carniola race is between 2.4-3.0. It has short and dense hair cover. Carniola bees, also called gray bees, have a dark color, brown dots, and sometimes streaks on the 2nd and 3rd rings. The hair color of drones ranges from gray to grayish brown. There are bright-colored hairs on the abdomen.

Carniola bee is benign, it is known as the calmest and docile bee breed. These bees did not escape even when the honeycombs were kept out of the hive for a long time. Their offspring yields are very good, they give too many sons, they make offspring, and they form large families. The emphasis has been placed on the improvement of the high son trend of this breed, which has attracted much attention in recent years. As long as the pollen is sufficient, the offspring rearing continues. In the autumn, the family’s population is rapidly decreasing, they winter in small families, so their food consumption is low and their wintering abilities are good even in very harsh climatic conditions. The ability to determine the direction and find hives is good. It is not easy to identify the queen during the hive examination. They make good use of clover. They use very little propolis, so their honeycombs remain clean and white. They are not sensitive to offspring diseases.

This race lives in a climate zone where strong continental air movements are effective, characterized by Europe’s long severe winters, short springs, and hot summers. Therefore, this race has a high survival and ability to adapt to changes in environmental factors. When breeding with other bee breeds, bees with high brood yield and survival are obtained.

Caucasian Honey Bees (A. m. Caucasica Gorb.)

Its homeland is Central Caucasus, it has two types. The first is the gray-colored Caucasian bee living in the high valleys of the same region, and the other is the yellow-colored Caucasian bee living in the lowlands of the same region. Mountain type is more preferred. This race is seen as pure and hybrid especially in the highlands of Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus border region in Turkey. The Caucasian bee is similar to the Carniola bee, the color of the kit is dark, the hair cover is lighter gray, there are brown spots on the 1st abdomen ring. The bristles on the bosom of the bee are black. They have the longest tongue among the bee species (7.2 mm).

It is docile, its calmness on the honeycomb is its most typical feature. The juvenile yield is high and they form strong families. It is mid-summer when they are the strongest. They don’t give many sons. They use propolis a lot and therefore hives are difficult to clean. In autumn, the hive entrance is closed with propolis, leaving a very small hole. They store too much honey for the winter. Honey yields are far superior to brown bees. They do not accept queen bees easily, they tend to plunder. They are susceptible to nosema disease.

Other Bee Species

The Cyprus bee (A. m. Cypria) is similar to the Italian bee race, slightly smaller and dark yellow in carrot color. They are considered the mother of the Italian bees. They are very difficult to handle because they are very combative and striking. They are not preferred in rehabilitation works because their hybrids do not give very good results. The same applies to the Syrian bee (A. m. Syriaca) of the yellow race. It was determined that the Macedonian bee (A. m. Cecropia Kiews) in South Yugoslavia and Northern Greece and the Carpathian bee in Romania belong to the Carniola breed. Their performance is low. Bright and attractive looking corn bees were taken to other countries due to their good results in crossbreeding and male corn bees were given to the queen bees of Carniola and Caucasian breeds.

Origin of Honey Bees Throughout The History

The history of beekeeping is as old as human history. Cave paintings from 7000 BC, bee fossils dating back to ancient history and historical finds confirm this view. Honey and waxes were found in Pharaoh tombs 4000 years ago in Egypt. It is known that honey was also present in the rituals of the Egyptians and one of the royal dynasties used the bee as a symbol. There was nomadic beekeeping in Egypt and therefore it is thought that beekeeping spread to Greece, Palestine, and Cyprus.

Information about bees and honey was found between 3000-2000 BC in India. Babylonians used honey as both food and medicine. Aristotle, who lived between 384-322 BC, explained that there were 3 types of bees as queen bees, drones, and worker bees and that bees collect flower dust, worker bees carry water and there is a division of labor between worker bees in his work History of Animals (Book 5 and 9). In this work, he only made the mistake by saying that bees produce wax from flower dust. The Greeks used knitted hives, basket hives and wooden hives built from stems.

Cato, Columella, Virgil, and Georgies gave information about the bees 2000 years ago. Columella wrote that 2.5 tons of honey can be taken from the apiary, how to put the hives into the apiary, how to make the hives and the principles of tools and materials used in beekeeping. Boğazköy’s excavations showed that beekeeping was an important agricultural activity during the Hittites period between 1300 BC as well.

Development of Beekeeping and Increase of Hybrid Bee Species

In 1609, Butler reported that wax formed as flakes in the body of the bee. Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680) studied bee biology. François Huber (1750-1831) included some interesting expressions of bees in his work “The Encyclopaedia Britannica” such as the ventilation of the hives is done with the bees flapping, queen bees can be raised from worker bee eggs and larvae, queen bee mates only in the air, flower powder is the main food of bee offspring, the brooding temperature should be around 30 ° C, the bees’ antennas are the touch organ. Huber has also worked on issues such as the functions of antennas and basic honeycomb.

He collected these works in the book “New Observations on the Bee”. Peter Prokopovyrch developed the framed modern hive in 1814. Mehring discovered the first basic honeycomb mold in 1857. Dzierzon developed the framed Langstroth hive, found that in 1845 bees multiplied according to the theory of parthenogenesis, claimed that bees had two types of offspring disease and that the Italian native bee race was a good breed. Langstroth, who is considered to be the father of the modern hive, and Moses Guinby, who introduced commercial beekeeping, as well as A.I. Root and Charles Dadant are important people who provide important services to beekeeping.

Today, beekeeping has become a commercial business. Considering the world conditions, it is remarkable that beekeeping is rapidly changing from primitive hive to modern hive and transformed into 100-500 hive commercial enterprises instead of 10-50 hive family businesses. Established previously to produce honey and beeswax, businesses have recently engaged in health-related products such as royal jelly, pollen, and bee venom.

Savaş Ateş

I like eating honey a lot. We have a huge interest in bees and how they make honey. I have visited honey farms. I have talked to a lot of honey sellers. I read a lot of books about them. I want to share my knowledge with you.

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