East African highland bee

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East African highland bee
Apis mellifera subsp scutellata, Phakama, a.jpg

East African highland bee ( Apis mellifera scutellata )

without rank: Bees (Apiformes)
Family : Apidae
Subfamily : Apinae
Genre : Honey bees ( apis )
Type : Western honey bee ( Apis mellifera )
Subspecies : East African highland bee
Scientific name
Apis mellifera scutellata
Lepeletier , 1836

The East African highland bee , Apis mellifera scutellata , is a subspecies of the western honey bee Apis mellifera . Its distribution area is the African thorn bush and grass savannah in Kenya , Tanzania and South Africa with heights of 500 to over 2000 meters.


The species Apis mellifera is divided into four race groups, which are morphologically and genetically distinguishable (based on the mitochondrial DNA sequences) and which each have a separate distribution area: The Western European, Eastern European and African bees and the bees of the Middle East. Before human intervention, it is believed that these were separate from one another and exhibited vicarious spreading patterns. Most of the bees of tropical Africa were assigned to a broad breed called Apis mellifera adansonii . These differ from the northern races by their smaller body size, a more yellow-orange tint and a number of behavioral characteristics.

Later analyzes showed that the African bees in this large region show greater differences among themselves, which can be differentiated from one another as races or subspecies. The assignment to these subspecies is, however, complex and not possible on the basis of the expression of individual characteristics. Instead, numerous characteristics have to be offset against each other morphometrically , since the expression z. B. allometrically depends on the height of the individual. The combination of the following factors is used for African bees today: length of the outer hairs on the tergites, length of the proboscis , width of the wax plates on the third stermit , color of the scutellum , color of the scutellar plate , color of the second tergite and four angles of cells of the wing . As a result, the bees of the East African highlands can be seen as a separate form of Apis mellifera scutellata . Their distribution area borders in the west on that of adansonii (in today's sense), in the lowlands of the coastal region of litorea and in the south of South Africa on that of capensis . The populations of the higher mountains are formed by a different, unnamed form (which does not correspond to the subspecies monticola of the Central African mountains).

America's "Africanized" honeybee

The Am scutellata achieved particular fame not because of its distribution in Africa, but because of its spread in South and Central America. It was introduced by the bee researcher Warwick Kerr for breeding experiments in Brazil in the 1950s and has since spread to the warmer regions of the American continent in a largely uncontrolled manner as a so-called Africanized honey bee . When this form began to spread to North America, it received a lot of public attention there and quickly became notorious due to the tendentious reporting of so-called "killer bees". According to genetic studies, the "Africanized" honey bee of America carries about eighty percent genetic material of the subspecies scutellata . A small but constant proportion of 20 (to 30) percent comes from European (especially Western European) bee breeds. The shape is dominant at crossings compared to the European races and displaces them from climatically suitable areas (America does not have its own honey bee species).

Ecology and behavior

Compared to the European bee races, the African honeybees have a number of peculiarities that result from the requirements of their habitat. Due to the higher predator (predator) density, they are more aggressive towards approaches to the nest, which they perceive as a threat. In addition, they are more mobile: In addition to swarming during the production of the young queens, they also often relocate the nest location at other times. Such swarms of migration occur z. B. on lack of food, unfavorable microclimatic conditions at the nesting site, disturbances by predators. Smaller swarms can aggregate into large swarms along the way, the excess queens are eliminated.

Use and beekeeping

Apis mellifera scutellata has been used for beekeeping by the indigenous people of their home areas for a long time . Due to the differences in behavior, however, a different tradition of use has emerged. The bees are not bred, but wild swarms are captured and used. To do this, artificial nests are built from tree bark or hollowed out trunks and placed in the treetops with long poles. They are moved by migrating bees in search of a cheap new location. Due to the height, the destruction of the nest by many predators is prevented and the risk of encountering the aggressive animals is reduced. Despite the very extensive keeping, the honey yield is very high.

In summary, the main differences compared to the European bee breeds are:

  • More aggressive behavior in the event of disorders. Even in the event of a disturbance at a certain distance from the beehive, the bees attack alleged attackers and sometimes pursue them over distances of sometimes more than a kilometer.
  • If it is about three times more willing to sting, it will administer ten times more stings with about 30% less poison strength.
  • Fewer bees per colony as there is no long winter to survive.
  • Very high tendency to swarm , five to eight swarms per year are not uncommon.
  • The tendency to give up the entire nest relatively quickly and settle in another place.
  • A daily laying rate of up to 4000 eggs and therefore very rapid colony development.
  • A development time of 18 instead of 21 days from egg to worker, which leads to resistance to the varroa mite .
  • Resistance to foulbrood .
  • Higher honey output.

See also: Breeds of the Western Honeybee

Individual evidence

  1. a b c S.E. Radloff, HR Hepburn, MH Villet (1997): The honeybees, Apis mellifera Linnaeus (Hymenoptera: Apidae), of woodland savanna southeastern Africa. African Entomology 5 (1): 19-27.
  2. ^ A b Stanley Scott Schneider, Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, Deborah Roan Smith (2004): The African Honey Bee: Factors Contributing to a Successful Biological Invasion. Annual Revue of Entomology 49: 351-376. doi : 10.1146 / annurev.ento.49.061802.123359
  3. ^ H. Randall Hepburn, Sarah E. Radloff: Honeybees of Africa. Springer Verlag, 1998. ISBN 3540642218
  4. HR Hepburn Absconding, Migration and Swarming in Honeybees: An ecological and evolutionary perspective. In: Vladilen E. Kipyatkov (Ed.): Life Cycles in Social Insects: Behavior, Ecology and Evolution. Proceedings of the International Symposium, St. Petersburg, Russia 22-27 September 2003. St. Petersburg University Press, St. Petersburg, 2006, ISBN 5-288-04008-7
  5. G. Ntenga (1969): The honeybee of Tanzania. Apiacta 1

Web links

Commons : Apis mellifera scutellata  - collection of images, videos and audio files